“Close your eyes,” Swanta Zakka, Back2Back staff, said quietly to the group of teens. “Imagine a skill you wish you had; think about what obstacles are between you and learning that skill. Now, open your eyes. Who wants to share?”
Swanta has been leading life skills groups with children and teens at the education center. Each meeting covers a different topic, allowing students to share their lives and needs with one another. She recently led a conversation with the teens about special skills – what they wish they had, what was stopping them from learning, and how to overcome that obstacle.
Abeo*, a 15-year old boy, raised his hand shyly when Swanta asked for volunteers to share.
“I would like to learn how to sew,” he said quietly. Sewing is a common trade among females in Nigeria, atypical for males to learn.
“I was both shocked and proud at his boldness to share this desire with everyone,” shared Swanta. “I was also encouraged in the felt-safety he displayed, sharing it among boys his same age.”
Abeo didn’t stop there. After Swanta affirmed him, he looked at her and said, “You don’t even know how many dresses I’ve created in my mind.” Swanta smiled at him and praised his creativity and the desire to grow it.
Another teen, Hassana*, shared she wanted to learn the skill of respecting her elders in school. A few of her peers scoffed, “That is not a skill, it doesn’t count.”
Hassana held her head high when she responded, “It must be a skill, because it is something that is difficult for me sometimes.”
Others shared and the teens returned to their homes, but Swanta was left with a profound feeling of gratitude as she watched them walk the long lane back to their village. The teens she has cared for were maturing before her very eyes. She thought to herself, this vulnerability is surely a sign of growth and tremendous healing.