A day with Walter at Corazon Grande

Walter has been part of Casa de la Alegría for almost 5 years. He tells about his work and takes us to Corazon Grande.

“One of the locations where we, the teachers of Casa de la Alegría, work is Corazón Grande. Here I work with a group of girls between the ages of 14 and 18, all of whom have been victims of sexual abuse. They were rescued from that situation and are taken care of at Corazon Grande. When I was assigned this location to start working as a teacher, I was really looking forward to it. I had worked with a similar group before and it was very tough. We are now 3 years later, and I love working with these girls. I am very attached to them.

But the nerves, adrenaline and emotions, I still feel them. Every lesson with this group is different, I can never be 100% prepared for what is going to happen. Every time these teenagers have a different attitude towards me. Sometimes they are excited to participate in the activities I have planned. And to the other, they complain that they are tired, find the activity boring, or don’t want to participate for some other reason. It’s times like these that my best-planned classes are shattered. As a result, both the preparations and the lessons themselves are always a challenge. But something I definitely wouldn’t want to avoid!

During an activity, we are not just tinkering with things, we are also working on expressing emotions at the same time.

During the preparation I adapt my lessons to the group and I plan varying activities. For some classes, I prepare dynamic games so that the girls are moving and immersed in the activity. Sometimes they need quieter lessons, such as manual dexterity, where there is more room for conversation and we can go more in depth. During such an activity we are not just tinkering, we are also working on expressing emotions at the same time. An important part of our interaction is that they experience that I am also vulnerable and that I also show emotions in certain situations. They sometimes ask me questions about how I was at school, as a child or as a teenager. I try to answer them honestly from my own experience. They see that their teacher, like them, also has problems and argues with his sisters, for example. They sometimes think it’s crazy that in addition to being a teacher, I’m only human and I was also a teenager.

A school bell at the end of class? We don’t have those.

Normally the lessons last two hours, but with this group I sometimes stay for three or four hours. This can be very cozy. For example, if there is a birthday, then of course they want me to stay for the party. But the lessons can also run late when very sensitive topics are discussed, such as memories of abuse, the fact that they miss their family or actually want to leave the home. I try to make sure that the class is a safe place, where they can express everything. Not only their pain and sorrow, but also their anger or rage. That sometimes makes the lessons emotionally very heavy. Not only for them, but also for me.

At the end of each lesson, I only think of one thing: what else can I do? What do these girls need?

They are certainly demanding and challenging, but I think this is a very nice group! I never thought I would ever work with teenagers. I was always a little afraid of teenagers. But there is something, a connection, between me and the girls from Corazon Grande. “