Two years ago, Mariya was shy, quiet and somewhat withdrawn. At that time, often playing by herself, she is spotted sitting alone in the corner. Mariya finds it difficult to form attachments to others. Her mother, still living, is mentally and physically challenged. She is unable to care for her daughter, so Mariya moves to Peace Home, situated on a larger school campus. Mariya attends school, has her meals, and receives some adult supervision from a nun and a cook, while sharing a sleeping space with 11 other girls. Most nights, getting ready for bed, Mariya surveys the room, finds a space, and hearing the chitter-chatter around her, she drifts off to sleep, wondering what tomorrow may bring.
One morning, awakened by a loud noise, Mariya peeks around the corner. Her mind struggles to take in the sight of 60 new, unexpected children arriving to share the already cramped quarters. It was too much for the girls who had been living together, it was too much for the new children, and soon after their arrival, it was too much for the nun who was providing care. She quits, leaving Mariya and the 75+ children to care for themselves. The children continue in school and receive periodic checks by adults at the home, but Mariya longs for a consistent adult in her life, someone she can trust and depend on.
Knowing the children need more in-depth care, Back2Back commits to finding a solution. But before plans could be finalized, the overseer of Peace Home interjects an unexpected announcement,
“You need to take them. It’s too much for me. If you don’t step in, I’ll send them back to the life they once had. They can’t stay here.”
The life they once had was one of exploitation. It could mean child labor, unspeakable abuse and another generation locked in poverty. Land and space are so scarce in India, finding an adequate home for the original group of girls is no small task. The situation is dire, and yet in less than six weeks, God provides an answer to urgent prayers. A temporary safe home is secured, along with two nurturing caregivers in October 2013.
Slowly, Mariya begins to emerge from her shell and engage with those around her. She spends long periods of time with Vimala, a caregiver at the home. Growing in her trust of adults, a healthy attachment takes root. Mariya loves her like family and begins to feel secure in her new surroundings. Playing with the younger children elicits a smile, giving her a sense of belonging. Mariya loves to entertain, and care for these young girls. She is beginning to find her place in this world.
Mariya begins each day with a routine and structure. After school, she has snack time, homework, dinner with the others, and closes the day with prayer time. Having this predictable routine meets a deep need within Mariya, giving her peace and security. She also knows she will visit her mother on her school vacations, a relationship that continues to be encouraged in every way possible.
One evening, Mariya overhears a conversation about a new, permanent home built for them. Can it get any better? She thinks to herself. The “India Hope Campus” promises the one thing she has been reluctant to feel: hope. This is your home, this is your family, and this is your future, the staff say over and over again, enough that she begins to believe it.
Now, the dream is a reality, and she loves her new home. With the addition of new caregivers, there is now a 1:6 adult to child ratio, a great improvement from the 1: 75+ just a few years ago.
Today, no one needs to guess what Mariya is thinking or feeling. She freely expresses herself with eye contact, smiles and words. She giggles with her friends as they work on homework together. Being surrounded by adults sincerely interested in her has made all the difference. Recently, Mariya spontaneously approached a Back2Back staff person, looked up with her big, brown eyes and confided,
“I’m happy here. Truly. I’m so glad to be here.”
She then turned and headed toward the kitchen, her posture giving away her confidence, knowing Vimala is waiting to hear about her day’s adventures.