Hunger of many kinds alters lives
Lucy was 13, tall for her age, very sulky, and quick to take offence. When greeted in the morning she would respond angrily "What are you looking at?" Her support person would respond, "I'm looking at you and wishing you a good morning". After the first school holidays Lucy had at Learning Ground she returned looking unwell, and very thin. Remarking that she appeared unwell, her angry response was "You wouldn't feel too good either if you had been living on recycled teabags for five days". That was Lucy's experience of day to day living, no wonder she was sulky.
We put some support services in place and continued to work with her. Little by little Lucy began to trust. First she trusted staff at Learning Ground, slowly, participants too and after two years of very consistent care, being listened to, being invited to speak, and hearing what she had got right Lucy started to believe in herself. Just a little at first, and later more and more. She found herself getting things right, smiling and responding positively to suggestions and learning how she could make her five Me's work for her. Lucy studied childcare when she left school, she said she wanted to "catch the little kids who had a tough beginning". It was amazing to see that she was finally able to accept herself as a worthwhile person and to share who she had become with others.
Fear drives anger and despair
When we interviewed Jason he was 14. He told us he was hopeless, we shouldn't worry about him because he would go to jail like his Dad. Insisting he was "just dumb" in the early weeks he made very little effort to engage with Learning Ground. Slowly slowly he started to speak when spoken to, to respond to ideas, and to attempt to write in his journal. His writing skills were very limited, he had missed so much school. Jason was often angry, quick to pick a fight with other participants and highly critical of everything from the food served, although he ate it quickly, to the conversations had, the attempted learning, and even the break times.
On his 15th birthday we had a cake for Jason. His eyes filled with tears and he simply did not know what to do with it. He didn't know he had to cut it and had never had a birthday cake before! His one delight in connection with his birthday was that the night before and for the first time he had been able to carry his Mum upstairs when she was drunk. He was delighted to have been able to do this, and was very proud he could manage. He told us with great glee of what he had achieved. He loved his Mum, and did all he could to protect his younger brother and sister. Beyond the hurt, fear, anger and pain there was a thinking young man, someone who could choose right from wrong and who would finally complete Year 10 and after several false starts go on to work in construction, to support his Mum in rehab, to care for his siblings, and to find that in working slowly through the learning possible at Learning Ground he could find the courage to identify the young man he was destined to be.
Seeking connection takes many paths
Tasmin and Justine are twins. Tasmin is tall, pretty, good at sport and clever. At least Justine thought Tasmin had everything going for her. When they went to High School it seemed like Tasmin got smarter and smarter, and Justine was left way behind. Justine's Dad was really tired of her "sitting round" and used to chide her about how lazy she was. Her Mum often asked her to do all the household jobs that had been divided between the sisters because Tasmin didn't have time!! Justine hated her life, felt useless, gave up trying. She used every opportunity to go to her room with her mobile phone. Things went from bad to worse and Justine eventually stopped going to school but no one seemed to care. One day a friend called to see Tasmin, Justine was in the kitchen and heard the friend talking about attending a place called Learning Ground. The friend said when the day started they greeted each other with great respect and great affection, that sounded weird. After some days Justine summonsed the courage to ask her Mum if sh could see about that place. Her mother was happy to do so because she was also in some strife about Justine not going to school.
Justine took a little while to settle and was much encouraged to return when the road looked hard, before long she worked hard at Learning Ground. The atmosphere encouraged her to try. People smiled a lot, she enjoyed the chance to express her thoughts and ideas, people listened to her, she learned about how to get in touch with her five Me's physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual. Slowly she found all the Me's could help her to become the whole person she could be. She started to talk to her sister and found life wasn't quite as rosy for her as she had always thought it was. They started to be friends.
Justine grew in confidence, she is in Year 12 now. Never having believed she could get so far at school. She is trying to help a younger sister too who is acting up at home and getting in trouble now. When asked what she had learned at Learning Ground Justine replied "I learned I could do stuff" I don't have to hide now I can ask for help, I can make friends, and I can think about my future.