Matters of the Heart

“What you leave behind is not engraved in stone monuments, but

 what is woven into the lives of other

-Pericles

             

Currently I volunteer four days a week at Anselma House. I get to play with the wonderful children as part of the Child and Youth Program. By playing with the children, it frees up the mothers to attend support group meetings. To me, Anselma is a place of hope and safety for the mothers and children.

My interest in volunteering at Anselma is intensely personal. I was physically abused by my step-father, and I saw my step-father abuse my mother. So I have some understanding of the nightmare. Watching my mother cry after I knew she had been abused, was like having my heart ripped out.

To me volunteering is a way to give meaning to the abuse I experienced as a child, and to provide a positive male role model to the children who have experienced or witnessed abuse by their existing male role model at home. Volunteering is a way for me to give back. When I see the children, I see me. Volunteering at Anselma has been one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life. I want the mothers to see that I love their children, and that all men are not alike.

I have had many, many wonderful moments with the kids at Anselma. One time, I was carrying a little boy around the playroom. This little guy was teething. So he started gnawing on the closest object which was my head!!! It was just a moment filled with love and laughter.

Another wonderful moment more recently I was watching a little boy learn to walk at first in his playpen. Then on the floor. We all cheered and clapped. Even the little boy started clapping too!

Those kids at Anselma House do matter, they do have feelings too, and they have been through a nightmare. The children may not have witnessed or experienced the abuse directly, but they may have heard the arguments and felt the tension and anger. To me all children are affected by the abuse. They may not be able to verbalize it, but at some level, they know that something awful has happened.

The impact on these children can be devastating. The damage may manifest itself in relationships to peers and adults, in performance at school, in a lack of self-confidence, self-blame, guilt, nightmares, and learning to forgive. It is entirely inappropriate to say that because they are children, whatever happened will have no effect on the children.

Women’s Crisis Services offers a variety of programs to help women and their children move beyond violence. For more information about violence against women, I encourage you to check out the Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region website, http://www.wcswr.org/. If you or someone you know are experiencing abuse, in crisis or need support, please contact Women Crisis Services at the following phone numbers:

24 Hour Crisis Line

In Cambridge 519.653.2422

Kitchener 519.742.5894

Toll-Free 1.800.410.4482

If you are in immediate danger please call 911.

The author retired from the Waterloo Region District School Board in 2002 after teaching for 29 years.