Sathwik’s cry pierced the quiet night. The small boy ran for the door, but Rajini, his caregiver, patted his back softly, comforting the young boy’s unknown hurts. As his loud cries turned to small hiccups, Rajini led Sathwik back to his bed, praying he would find comfort and connection in his new home.
In July of 2016, four-year old Sathwik came to live on the India Hope Campus. “He was a very traumatized little boy when we first met him,” shared Casey Foreman, Back2Back staff. “His first few weeks were comprised largely of regular emotional breakdowns. Early in the morning and late in the evening, Sathwik’s cry could be heard. Comforting him was a difficult feat.”
He arrived physically as a four-year old, but emotionally, was more like a 1½ year old. Back2Back staff went back to the basics of their Trauma Competent Care training. Sathwik resisted being held or making eye contact, he wanted to be left alone. Attempting to run out of the home, he was leery of connecting with female caregivers.
“When we considered his emotional age we asked ourselves, ‘what does a 1½-year old need?’ and the answer was, in his frightened state, to be held in the arms of a safe, loving adult,” shared Dan Belue, Back2Back staff. “We needed to provide for him a safe place to create attachment to a primary caregiver.”
Dan sat on the front steps of Suzuki Home, where the boys live. He watched a group of children play volleyball, while another group kicked the soccer ball back and forth. Sathwik sauntered over to Dan, his big, brown eyes looking towards the home where his caregiver was inside cooking. “Poor Rajini. . .,” he whispered. Chuckling, Dan asked, “Why poor Rajini?!”
“She is inside cooking all alone while everyone else plays. She needs to do magic mustache!” His face broke out in a smile, as a giggle escaped.
Magic Mustache is a self-regulating tech-nique Sathwik and the other children are learning. A part of trauma competent care, children press their index finger to the top of their upper lip, pushing against pressure points to instill a sense of calm and help them refocus. Sathwik, the same boy who was difficult to console only a year ago, now displays growth through this simple suggestion for Rajini.
Back2Back staff members are trained in Trauma Competent Care early on in their work with the ministry. Classes educate on the painful backgrounds of the children and instill best practices on soothing and care. Back2Back strives to teach each boy and girl that, while trauma may be a part of their past, it does not define their future. Simple tactics like magic mustache give children the necessary tools to calm down in the face of panic or frustration. Qualified staff lead Nurture Groups with the children as a safe space to talk freely of their hopes and hurts.
Sathwik laughs loudly. He sprints towards Chandu, another boy who lives on campus. As he gets closer, he jumps into Chandu’s arms for a hug. Both boys giggle uncontrollably. In just one year, he has shown immense growth. He is making connections and attaching to safe adults as he becomes familiar with family. Sathwik may have come to the campus more fearful than friendly, but consistency and proper training has allowed his healing to begin.