The girls section of the Umerkhadi Home is a tough place to be in. While every effort is made by the home and the NGOs working to engage the children often the girls get aggressive and hyper. Who would not be, if they were kept away from their family for a long time – no matter how child friendly the place is.
One such day, there was chaos in the girl’s section. Ten girls were cutting themselves with broken tiles they found from the construction work going on in the home. They were rebelling by not wearing uniforms, not tying their hair, not following the rules and went to the extent of urinating in the dining room of the home.
The beauty of the Dongri home is the teamwork of probation officers, guards, superintendent and the NGOs. When the situation went out of hand, all of us sat together to try something different.
There was a clear need for attention and the girls were angry. When we entered the room, they refused to listen to us. We tried to speak with the least angry girl amongst them and even for her, it was hard to control her anger but yet she was able to share the problem. Many girls had spent three to four months in the home but there was a delay in sending them back to their families. In some cases, the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) had already passed the orders but the police escort was not showing up to take them home. In others, the CWC was yet to pass the order.
We tried to explain that these actions will not convey the message or solve the problem. Instead let us put our points clearly to the CWC so we can get answers to our questions. To break the intense energy and the angst and to create a space for dialogue we thought of using a Graffiti wall. A wall made of 2-3 chart papers – where they can express themselves openly without having to talk to any of us.
We asked them to put all their feelings, their anger and their points up on the wall for the CWC members. Some girls started by writing their feelings, those who could not write, took our help and expressed themselves. The intensity of their anger reduced as they were able to share their pain. While most of the girls got involved, the toughest one stared from a distance. Her friends were worried for her and convinced her to join in. As if she was only waiting for some invitation, she immediately came and wrote a message.
When the girls read what they had written as a third person, they realized how rebellious they were being and how it wasn’t really helping anyone. It was magical to see the shift in their energy. They wrote an apology to the CWC and the staff of the home for insulting and disobeying everyone.
In the end, the Child Welfare Committee members came to see the Graffiti wall and read every point on it. They helped the girls understand the procedure and why there was a delay in sending them home. They shared their problems and assured each one of them, that they will be sent back home at the earliest. In the end, it was a peaceful discussion and the girls calmed down.
Often it’s only a listening space that is required to be able to express one’s emotions. The graffiti wall was one such place that helped break the wall within that caused the girls to become angry rebels.