Have you seen the new IKEA Christmas commercial? If not, check it out and have some Kleenex ready. Kids are asked to write two letters – one to Santa and one to their parents. They ask Santa for toys and video games. However, their letter to mom and dad is simpler. Things like family dinners and a game of catch together topped the list – the common thread was quality time.
This commercial showed what children really want from their parents. But, the part that really got me was what happened next. The kids were told they could only send one letter and time after time they all made the same choice—they wanted to send the letter to their parents.
The commercial is a reminder of what really matters. It shows us what we all long for more than anything—to be known and loved, and to spend time with those who know and love us. It’s more important than toys and things. At the end of the day, we all want time and relationships. And for children who have dealt with trauma and abandonment, they want and need this at the very core of their being.
This was no different for sisters Paloma and Shirley. They had both spent several years in Back2Back’s Hope Program in Monterrey, Mexico. Through the program, the girls lived in a nurturing family-setting with a married couple and other girls their age. This experience helped Paloma and Shirley explore who they are and who they want to be. From the outside things seemed to be going well. But much like the kids in the IKEA commercial, the girls wanted more time with their biological mom.
Over the years, the girls had maintained a strained relationship with their mother, who had abandoned them more years ago than either girl wanted to remember. Even though mom visited them often, they missed her and longed for their family to be back together. Materially, the girls had everything they needed. Through Back2Back, they had clothes, jobs, access to quality education, but what they both were missing most was their mom.
This fall, Paloma and Shirley were given the chance they had longed for—the opportunity to be reunited with their mom. Their mom had wanted to be with her daughters, but she didn’t know how she could afford it. Through Back2Back’s Child Sponsorship Program, funding was provided for housing. For the first time in years, the girls were able to live with their mom.
Now, Shirley is studying international business in a private school and Paloma is studying to be a teacher. Both girls have high professional aspirations, infectious personalities and a great sense of humor. But perhaps the highlight the girls want to share most is the beauty of simply being together. The girls continue to process their past with their mom, stepping toward forgiveness and healing. Each day is a new chance for grace, as they learn to be a family again.
For some of the children we work with, poverty is a contributing factor behind their parents’ decision to leave them at an orphanage. Families with limited resources may leave a child at a children’s home, sincerely believing the child will have a better life there than what they can offer. Back2Back works with families in this scenario – equipping parents to generate sustainable income so they can ultimately reunite with their children.
Shirley and Paloma return home from school to find their mom making chicken enchiladas. The smell permeates the apartment and draws the girls to the kitchen where they share about their day. Being home is still an adjustment. But together, each day, they are learning to be a family again.