Heart and Soul

dreamhouseThe Dream House is a light-filled haven for girls who are at high-risk to be exploited or trafficked. The Director, Ala, explained that many of the girls are “social orphans” whose parents are working abroad and unable to provide care. Some have been completely abandoned or previously lived with relatives who later kicked them out when money became scarce. Though their stories vary, a common theme unites them: they had no one to turn to and would have been easy prey for traffickers without the intervention of Beginning of Life (BOL). The Dream House has been in operation for less than a year and is home to ten teenagers. Over three years the girls learn to take care of themselves, interact effectively with others, and pursue life goals. At the end of the time, each girl is expected to independently provide for herself.

Today our team decided to bake at the Dream House. Many of the residents had been napping upstairs but, as the aroma of fresh sugar cookies wafted through the house, a hurried throng of girls eventually appeared in the kitchen. It was a scene from any high school slumber party: young girls devouring multiple cookies as quickly as possible. One girl asked, “What’s in these? We’ve never made cookies before.” It surprised me that this basic rite of passage for many American girls was completely foreign to these precious Moldovan women–and emphasized just how far from childhood they were.

The girls were shy; after the challenges they have faced, many wear a mask until they feel safe enough to reveal their true selves. Kim and I eventually got the girls to open up about their hobbies. One girl, G, agreed to perform a piano piece for us. She brought us down to the basement and turned on the keyboard to play a lovely and elegant short piece. G was serious and demure throughout the process. Kim and I lamented that we had never learned piano except for two easy songs: “Chopsticks” and “Heart and Soul.” We sat down to show G our (inferior) skills and, as we stumbled through the songs, G suddenly switched the instrument on the keyboard making our song sound like it was being played on a kazoo!

It sounded terrible but was quickly drowned out by sweet peals of laughter coming from G! The change delighted her so much that she continued to push the instrument button every few seconds, laughing at the new sounds that emerged. Her laughter was infectious and we were soon all giggling uncontrollably. Eventually, G flipped on the percussion button and there was the distinct twang of a cymbal. I was inspired to start a beat and Kim quickly joined with an alternating snare drum. We motioned for G to add to the rhythm and we were soon jamming to a catchy mixture of bass, snare, cymbal, and wood block–all together.

The fun didn’t stop there; Kim played “Heart and Soul” and I encouraged G to sit down next to her to learn. We spent the next fifteen minutes struggling through the piece but laughing at the finger slips and inevitable confusion caused by the language barrier. Eventually, Kim and G were able to play the song in harmony as I sang the lyrics. We were basically ready to go on tour. 🙂

It was a day of small victories–sugar cookies made without a recipe or measuring cups, an impromptu jam session, and the teaching of a simple song–but it was more than enough. From now on I will think of G every time I hear “Heart and Soul,” and be thankful that she felt safe enough to take her mask off, even if only for a few moments.

Helen

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