Million Little begins each of our creative mindfulness sessions inside the juvenile detention camp with a period of self reflection. Each girl has a journal, in which they write-back-and forth with our staff about personalized topics. This gives them the opportunity to explore and share their inner most thoughts, while developing their own individual connection with Million Little. The journals have the potential to become a girls’ private sanctuary, but first we have to work to earn the girls’ trust.
In Elaine's first session with us, the girls were asked what message they would like to share with the world. She scribbled down, “I like to eat, sleep, fuck and gangbang.” This, of course, is not an appropriate response. The girl sitting across from Elaine saw her paper and asked incredulously, “Do you see what she wrote?” The rest of the group erupted into laughter.
Our staff member approached Elaine privately and asked why she had chosen to respond in that manner. Elaine said, “That’s all there is to me.” It was clear that having only just met us, she had walls up.
It has been three months since we first met Elaine, and she has flourished in our program. She had a broken arm for the majority of her time in our program, but did not let this stop her from doing projects that require manual dexterity like sewing. Some things take her more time, but she has never shown any inkling of giving up. She is also a natural comedian, but not in a way that disrupts the flow of our sessions. Her sense of humor sets a really warm tone in our program.
Since our programs are strength-based, girls are often times working on completely different projects from one another. Recently, Elaine has been exploring songwriting and showing that she does, in fact, have much more to her than meets the eye. In her last session she penned:
“Mama wasn’t there
That’s why I lived life without care
No 1 to turn to
No where to go
Mama sweared she loved me so
Drugs clouded her mind
She couldn’t find the time to be caring and kind
Feeling like she left me behind”
Anaiis Nin once wrote, “We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.” If you looked only at the surface level, you could easily write our girls off based on societal preconceptions. If you heard a girl say that all there is to her is gang activity, you could choose to believe it. But each and every youth in our programs has a story, and far too often these stories are untold. We work to amplify their voices to show not only their potential, but the strength they have in this moment. Life is full of crossroads, paths that branch off into directions that impact our future in different ways. But starting down one path does not mean you can never make a turn. It’s important that we let our youth know that their lives are not predetermined, and their labels do not have to limit them.