This month, I had the privilege of training new Back2Back Monterrey volunteers. About 45 volunteers from local area churches gathered to receive training about providing trauma competent care to the orphans we serve.
We tailored the training to the various roles the volunteers will fill – tutoring, mentoring, discipleship programs, reading programs and music lessons. Our desire was for the volunteers to better understand the profile of the children they would be working with in the children’s homes and to better grasp how past trauma often impacts a child’s ability to focus, learn, and behave appropriately.
As we prepared to provide the training, I kept asking myself, “If this group of volunteers was about to sit down with the ten boys I care for, what would I tell them? What would help them be successful?” What we came up with turned into a list of practical tips for ways that volunteers can empower the children to be successful each time that they have the opportunity to interact with them.
A Few Examples
- Did you know chronic dehydration is common in orphanage settings and often leads to an increase in violent behavior in children? Studies show 80% of violent behavior in children’s homes can be decreased by ensuring children are well-hydrated.
- Did you know chewing gum or sucking on a lollipop has been scientifically proven to be calming to a child and to lower cortisol levels in the brain, momentarily increasing a child’s IQ and allowing them to better focus? Full-sugar bubble gum (sugarless gum doesn’t have the same effect) can be very beneficial to the children we serve.
Something that really impacted me during the training was the realization that God is answering my prayers from years ago – prayers to see the local church active and responding to orphans in their own backyard. If you’ve been praying for this shift, please know that God is moving heavily in the local churches here in Monterrey, Mexico. Many local churches are now partnering with Back2Back to be a positive presence in the children’s homes we serve.
At the end of the training, there was a time for the participants to work through examples of negative behaviors they’ve seen the children display. Afterwards, participants gathered in groups and practiced appropriately responding to the children by connecting to the child vs common responses of disciplining inappropriately with disconnecting responses.
As our volunteer team acted out the skits (which displayed how much they had grasped from our training day), they kept calling themselves as Back2Back. When they referred to “Back2Back,” they weren’t referring to Back2Back staff or mission teams – which honestly is how I usually view “Back2Back.” They were referring to themselves – an amazing team of consistent volunteers who represent our ministry. Volunteers are a valuable pillar of the Back2Back team.
Volunteers are making a tremendous difference for the children we work with. They are providing weekly reading and math skills classes. They are mentoring children and teens in the Hope Program. They are discipling the children we work with through weekly Bible classes. It was an incredible privilege to help equip them for their work with the children.
Caroline Burns serves with Back2Back Ministries in Monterrey, Mexico. She is passionate about providing deep holistic orphan care to each child she serves.