The O.U.R. Aftercare team was invited to Central America to visit an aftercare home, which was brought to their attention by a mutual friend and lawyer who is contracted there. She relayed to the team about the survivors who she had gotten to know and love and invited the group to come see for themselves.
Halloween was approaching, and O.U.R. had a scheduled trip to come and vet the facility, to potentially refer survivors to in the future. The idea dawned on our partner to surprise the two girls with Halloween costumes of their favorite characters. At Senior Aftercare Specialist Tyler Schwab’s door the next day, sat two Elsa costumes waiting to be packed up and taken to the young survivors. Because our partners knew these girls so well and because they went the extra mile, they provided an experience the girls will never forget.
At the aftercare home, one of the survivors, Tina, had been in the depths of darkness before she arrived. Tina had undergone the unimaginable at such a young age. She was sexually exploited and abused by her stepdad, and as punishment, her stepdad would exploit her in front of her family members and younger siblings. It was a scene that no child should ever have to experience or witness.
Upon arriving at the aftercare home, accompanied by the lawyer, Tyler Schwab and the aftercare team, all greeted the girls. They went to grab their luggage and told Tina and her friend that they had a surprise for them. The two young girls huddled around with eagerness, as Tyler went to open his suitcase, revealing two Elsa costumes. Bursting into excitement, the girls grabbed the costumes and immediately went to change.
The fellow social workers were aware of the surprise taking place and plugged their phones into the speaker to play “Let it Go” for the girls. As they opened the door, the two survivors were dressed head to toe in their favorite Disney character and began to dance around in their new Elsa costumes.
Yet, instead of “Let it Go” belting on the speakers, the translated version titled “Libre Soy” echoed throughout the room. “Libre Soy” in Spanish translates to “I am free.”
Tina, and her friend, were twirling around in their costumes, singing the words “Libre Soy” at the top of their lungs as the Frozen song played.
It was a moment in time that every person in the room witnessed in awe, as they watched the girls in a state of pure bliss.
Before the adults, were two children whose freedom and innocence were stolen from them at such a young age. To see them, now, dressed up as Frozen characters singing the words “I am free,” was a moment captured in time that moved everyone who was there to witness it.
Such a simple gesture of providing Halloween costumes turned out to be a much more profound moment than anyone intended. For the first time, in a long time, the survivors could return to their childlike innocence and just be kids. Having been forced into the darkest corner of the world, they were now dancing in the light. It was a scene of freedom, liberation, and pure and utter joy.
This lighthearted scene was a memory that will forever be remembered by O.U.R. Aftercare and a dream that they were grateful to bring to reality. This is an example of why we meet survivors where they are at and their specific needs. Sometimes it’s additional mental health therapy. Sometimes it’s supporting the construction or remodeling of an aftercare home. Other times it’s providing a fun day to remember and help a child’s simple dream come true.