In early 2020, while the world safely quarantined, sixty children remained together at a Back2Back-partner children’s home in Nigeria. The weeks seemed long and Ene Oklo, Back2Back staff and captain of the home, heard whisperings of what the children wished they could do. In an effort to keep morale high and help the children and teens focus on the future, she suggested they create a bucket list.
“The children said they wished they could do some activity they missed, or they wished they could see someone they loved, and I didn’t want them to dwell on what they couldn’t do, so I told them, ‘Every time we wish would could do something, go somewhere, treat ourselves, see someone we love, visit a new place, or invite people to our home, we will write it down on a small card and put it in a jar,’” explained Ene. “When this is all over, and our lives feel normal, we will go to our bucket list, work our way through the activities, and be more grateful than ever!’” The children caught on to the idea quickly, and enjoyed watching the jar fill up with their ideas.
One of the bucket list items was a girl’s retreat for the teens in the home. Following the completion of their final exams in school, Ene, along with other female Back2Back staff, decided the teens needed a time of relaxation without interruption. They rented a house and went away for the weekend. Together, they took time to listen to the safe adults in their lives as they shared their own experiences and how they handled difficult situations. They enjoyed meals together at restaurants – a true treat for the teens, giving the girls a chance to explore new foods and have a voice in decision-making.
“One of my goals this year for all the children is to help them channel their overwhelming emotions in an appropriate way,” explained Ene. Together, they discussed how they could process their emotions and keep things private when needed.
“When you live with almost sixty other people, privacy can be a difficult concept to grasp,” explained Ene. “We wanted the girls to understand sometimes it’s good, even necessary, to keep things private as we’re walking through them – or to trust a small number of people with your stories.” Together they talked about journaling– the girls could process their feelings in a place only they would see. They discussed how crying and expressing emotion can be cathartic. Ene and the staff reminded the girls they have the support of the safe adults in their lives.
“We want the girls to figure out what tools work best for them, but also be present for them as they need us,” said Ene. She reminded each of the teens the staff are equipped to help with the difficult burdens, and God is always interested in everything they go through. She told them, “He is always there for us, ready to guide us and offer wisdom.”
For all the serious moments and reflective time, there was also laughter and play. The girls enjoyed movies and went for evening strolls between meals and intentional conversation. This is the demonstration of safe adults, advocacy, and support in the lives of each teen girl. They are pursued and cared for by a God who places the right people in their lives at the right time.
Together, we are providing holistic care and helping girls grow into young women who will be examples of strong, capable, believing adults. In place of generational hurt or trauma, the teens will make way for growth and celebration, and this process is something we cherish and honor.