Hello to all readers of the blog! In quick steps now, the end of our time here in Tirana is approaching. When today we had the last day of the work in the disability centres, and we said good-bye to all the disabled people, i realized, that I wanted to write something about how working with those kids was like for me.
We began working in the centre for disabled people about three weeks ago. Not a long time actually, but still long enough to have an impact on ourselves and on the disabled people. I don’t know how people usually imagin working with disabled children (i will say children, because even though not all of them are children by age, they still are by the development of their mind), but for me the worst imagination I could have had of this work became true. They were far, far more disabled than I had expected, many of them not able to speak at all, making the same ever-repeating gestures with their hands, rocking back and forth, some having a terribly smelly breath. I saw this in shock, and was filled equally with pity and disgust (as terrible as this is to say). And at the same time I felt ashamed, that I couldn’t overcome those feelings and interact normally with them. But during the next days, I noticed what time can do, to see beyond the surface and to discover the person behind. This might be just as important with people we meet in everyday life, but with those disabled children, the change this made was surely much more obvious.
Quickly, we noticed, that some of them are acutally quite clever, one of the older boys was even teasing us all the time (which was amazing, because he could make them in a way, that we could understand them, even though we don’t understand the language).
With some others it was harder to behave normally with and not to think about them only as most pitiable creatures. one of those is Lenku. he is, as I sometimes thought, maybe the most experienced baby in the world. He is actually 30 years old, but his mind stayed in the state of a one year old child. Most of time he doesn’t say anything and just looks around with a smile our picks not existing dirt from his fingers. But then, sometimes, he says some words in Albanian, always repeating the same phrase, and at some point, he had sad them so often, that they were in my head like a melody. Then one day, an Albanian Volunteer heard him say this and translated to me, what he said: All the time he was repeating “dua nuse, dua nuse” – “I want a wife, I want a wife”, like a song or a nice poem, and from now on I always had to laugh so hard when he said this, with his random innocent smile, this was just a too funny combination! This was when I discovered, that it is sometimes easier (and probably more productive for all) if you can sometimes take things that appear weird with humour rather than flow over with passion.
The little Jacklee was another case. He is autistic, and during the first days, he was only wanting to play alone with a ball, trying to avoid all contact with us and running away whenever he could. I though (because I really didn’t know much in the beginning) that it was impossible because if his disability to build up a relationship with any of us. He didn’t like to be touched at all. But then, slowly, slowly, we discovered that he sometimes really liked to be tickled. first, he didn’t react, but then he all the sudden started to giggle and giggle and couldn’t stop anymore! But still, he tried to avoid eye contact. He could only meet your eye for one second, and then I always had the impression that he wanted to be in his own world. In the endm he really leoved to be held in someones arm an just to be rocked. When he was held like this, he seemed completely relaxed and peaceful. I think, that like this, he felt, that he was cared for, but still didn’t have to meet your eyes all the time and to give up his privatsphere.
And those were just some examples of many, how mauch time it took us, to understand their behavior and needs, that are so different from ours (Even though, when you come back to the basics of being loveed for and cared for, they are actually the same just like any human being). For me, it was not quite easy to understand them and to respect them and not just to pity them. But now in the end, I am so happy that we all took the time to be with them and getting a glimpse of how their life looks. And I think that we all gained a lot from them, through their innocent behavior and their sincereness (unlike us I think they dont have predjudices at all) thy can really touch one”s heart! (this is not meant to sound corny, even though I know it does). I hope we changed some little part of their life too!