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Shona in Goa….Caritas Orphanage for Girls

As I come to the end of my amazing time here I wanted to capture the essence from my time volunteering at the orphanage.  There were so many powerful, poignant and priceless moments over my time with the girls I can only hope to give you a flavour.

While they were on vacation from school, the 10 girls were between the ages of 13 – 17 who chose to come along for 3 hours in the morning to learn and develop.  Despite the various reasons for them being in the orphanage, all came over as bright, confident and friendly when they introduced themselves.

When I took them through the adapted version of our Shona Programme, the level of engagement from them blew me away.  I was fortunate to have our project co-ordinator, Nelufer, as she translated in Konkani (official language of Goa) when required.  While all the girls spoke good English, it was easier for them to sometimes share in their native tongue…..the main thing for me was they were having the opportunity to explore important topics in a new way.

There were lovely reactions when the girls were asked what strengths they saw in each other, you could see them beaming when others shared the positive traits that they didn’t see in themselves, it gave them such a confidence boost.  When we spoke about future goals and what they wanted to do when they finished school, my favourite response was from Amy (pictured below).  She firstly said she’d like to be like the sister who runs the orphanage closely followed by wanted to be a model! The more I got to know Amy, I could see her achieving both as they demonstrated the two sides of her complex personality.

On a more poignant note, when we touched on mental health and being kind to themselves their responses were far less positive.  Many of them admitted to not liking themselves with one girl sharing that she self harmed to make the pain go away and others sharing they often had dark thoughts about their situation.  While fighting back my own tears, I found the section in the Shona handbook very helpful to explore this further.  I did all I could to reinforce the message that they should speak to someone they trust when they have these types of thoughts, the importance of good friendships and to always be looking out for each other.

One technique I’d never used before was to combine learning lyrics to songs with teaching some English.  To reinforce the theme of girl empowerment I chose two songs ~ ‘Fight Song’ by Rachel Platten and ‘Perfect’ by P!nk, both of which have strong messages.  It was so interesting to discuss what they thought the lyrics meant as well as incorporate some lessons around past, present and continuous tenses.  I’ve got a fantastic video of them singing ‘Perfect’ which I’ll hopefully be able to share at a later date, gives me goosebumps every time I play it back.

There are so many other moments we shared with the girls from singing Happy Birthday to Jesus on Christmas Day, teaching some Scottish country dancing and most importantly them reading and signing their Shona pledge as well as receiving their ‘I Am Enough’ bands.  I’ll do another update focusing on the time I spent with the women empowerment project at Monte Hill slums in Margao ~ it was a totally different experience yet there were so many similarities in relation to the challenges they face, as women.

Bringing girl empowerment and impact to life in Goa has been such a humbling experience for me.  In addition to the amazing people I’ve met along the way it was made all the more special to share it with my ‘partner in crime’ Sofia Barbosa, a 19 year old psychology student from Brazil who I spent two weeks of my time here with.  While on paper you wouldn’t think we would have much in common yet we learnt so much from each other, created amazing memories together and demonstrated when there is a shared passion for ‘making a difference’ then magic happens!

Shona x