Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Coconut Club Break-in

I can't sleep right now, because my mind keeps turning about what happened today- I guess it would be wise to talk about it...

Today was a hard day but another good lesson learned being new at this job. I came into Coconut Club at my normal 2:30 time to set-up for our after school daily activity only to find the place ransacked and broken into. There is a separate room inside of Coconut Club (which is a normal sized classroom). This separate room is basically an office and stockroom which I keep track of. I organize in-kind donations in this room, birthday presents for the children, new games, special toys like battery operated ones which they can play with on special occasions, nice cameras for photo projects and snacks and candy to give away when a child does good clean-up or is extra helpful. The Office had been broken into and all these things lay strung about with empty wrappers, garbage strewn everywhere, toys stolen, presents destroyed etc.. I wish I could say some mean old horrible person did this. Unfortunately the facts must be faced and truth be told, it was 6 of our Coconut Club children.

There are so many things that can be said in response to this behavior and although I cried, was angry, canceled Coconut Club and wouldn't smile at any children for the next hour so they knew how infuriated I was, I feel pity and sadness for these 6 kids. To understand what I'm talking about you have to understand Coconut Club (CC). In case you haven't understood what exactly CC is and my role in the program let me explain: Its an after-school program where the foundation does special activities for the children who live at the school (many are orphaned and many have families but they cannot afford to feed them). CC is a safe haven, a place the kids can collectively share toys, play games, have fun and be supported by adults- something they currently do not receive at school. We do arts/crafts, volunteers from off the island on holiday bring donations and toys, we go swimming, throw birthday parties, take the kids to BBQs and nice sponsoring hotel events. My role is Program Coordinator a polite way of saying- I manage it. I consider that room to be my responsibility and that office space is precious to me. When I first got here and took over this role I cleaned, organized and made the place beautiful. To have someone come in and mess it all up especially when it is someone who I have made the space beautiful for, really really hurts.

On a more constructive note is what needs to be said about these 6 children. These children who I found out broke into CC are by far our most "special needs" children. They're the kids who are failing their classes, can speak hardly a word of English, who never leave school grounds- or receive family visitations. These are the children who REALLY need CC. Which makes my job of enforcing discipline by banning them from CC sooo much more difficult. I can't help but feel turmoil and heartache over this situation. I found out who had done it because I told the 20 kids who showed up today that they needed to report any information to the teachers. In Thai culture, Stealing is considered really bad. I'm not saying that Americans condone it, but we definitely don't have the same distaste for it that they have here. The children were defensive for me and their CC space and all fingers pointed at the same 6 kids.

I've never been one to agree with public punishment but this sure as heck ain't my turf. The Thai teachers felt the need to scold them out in front of the school in front of all the children, Yes I understand the cultural acceptance, but as a mother hen this was again, hard. One of the kids began to cry with guilt and confession saying sorry and bowing to me and another English teacher. The Thai teachers found this amusing and laughed. I don't know if my thinking about how to deal with children when they've done something bad is totally out of whack, but I would never laugh or embarrass a child when they already felt bad or showed remorse. I wasn't going to tell the kid, "Oh its okay (because it wasn't!)" but something about the situation just doesn't sit right. Here are six kids that need adult love and support more than ever. They do a destructive act which is obviously a cry for help (in my book) and the response is to ban them from the one place they receive that support and humiliate them publicly. So what happens after their banning period is over and they're allowed back in- would they respect me and the CC space suddenly? I don't think so. It would be even less of a home to them than it could have possibly been at one time. Or maybe I'm just too soft hearted?

Here's my idea- I will make them clean CC. They will still not be allowed to participate in activities or attend CC, but I will take them up there, outside of CC hours and have them help me clean the space. Would this not help them appreciate and love the space more? Maybe even persuade them not to mess it up. If they're really good and well behaved and respectful of me and CC then maybe I can trust to let them back in to participate. Or am I too big hearted, optimistic, idealistic and unrealistic about the nature of these children?

Feedback on this entry would be great... I know your not a commenting bunch but there's at least 40+ people out there I've confirmed are reading this, so if you have a moment hit the comment button at the bottom here....


1 comment:

Andy said...

I think the act of allowing them to clean up gives them a sense of atonement that will go alot deeper than just saying sorry - it will also probably give them a sense of pride (much like you felt when you cleaned it up) and might cause them not to repeat their actions...i do believe your on the right track..keep at it !!