Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A bittersweet sixteen

It has been a very long time since my last blogpost. And this post is not mine. A friend asked me if I could post it for her, as she feels that it is too personal for her to post herself, yet she wants the story to be told. Please read through to the end. My friend has met Isolde on several occasions, and want nothing more than for her to find her family.

 A bittersweet sixteen

 As I write this post, I’m hesitating if my story is going to make any difference. I’m praying it will. I’m not a blogger, but I hope you will read all the way ‘till the end of the story.

 This month I celebrate the sixteenth birthday of my foster sister. Seven years ago my life was upside down. After living with different friends, I ended up in a foster family in November. I was fifteen, almost sixteen and my little foster sister turned nine, just after I moved in. Her ninth birthday was a painful day for me. It did not only remind me of the fact that I was living with another family right now, it also reminded me of the fact that my life as I knew it, ended when I was nine.

 So to set the facts straight: In this story there’s a nine year old and an almost sixteen year old in the past and there’s a sixteen year old and an almost twenty-three year old in the present.

 As I said, when I was nine, life as I knew it ended. I grew up in a big family where, as the youngest, I went unnoticed a lot. This made it possible for me to be sexually abused without anyone noticing. Embarrassed and insecure, I remained silent about it. I tried to live my life as if nothing had happened. Life went on and so did I. I went on for years. In those years my family fell apart and my perseverance was tested to the limits. All those years I felt guilty, unwanted, unseen. When life threw me another curve ball, I left home. For six weeks I spent the night at friends, people from church, family members. I hopped around with my backpack on my back, filled with schoolbooks, a toothbrush and some clean underwear. After six weeks a family from church approached me. They told me they worried about me and that they wanted to take care of me. They wanted to offer me a home. I accepted, not knowing what to expect. I had a hard time adjusting to family life. I was used to making my own decisions, from small things, like when I had to go to bed, to bigger things, like whether or not to go to college or university. But the hardest thing to get used to was love. They obviously loved each other. There was hugging and praying. There were words like ‘I love you’ and ‘You can always count on me’. Words that had no meaning to me, because I had never experienced love that way. It took months before I trusted my foster parents and was ready to accept love.

 That’s where my foster sister enters the story. As I said she turned nine, shortly after I arrived. It reminded me of the abuse that I’d been through when I was nine. Seeing my vulnerable foster sister turned me into a momma bear. ‘You hurt my foster sister, you hurt me. You hurt me, you get hurt.’ What I felt for my foster sister was a new experience. I felt love for her.

 I lived with my foster family for almost two years. After two years I moved back to my own parents and after a short period of time, life threw another curve ball and I moved out permanently to live on my own. And as I look back, the time that I lived with my foster family, even though it was ‘only’ two years, was the best time of my life. I learned to love, to trust and to talk. That has been the most valuable lesson of my life. I grew to love my foster family as if they were my own.

My foster sister might be one of the most important people in my life, up until this day. And now she’s turning sixteen. She is the age that I was when I moved in with them. And as I look at her, I realize that sixteen is too young to take care of yourself. Sixteen is too young to fight to get through another day. Sixteen is too young to deal with trauma all by yourself. While all these thoughts go through my mind, I write a birthday card for my foster sister that says: ‘I love you! You can always count on me. It doesn’t matter what might have happened, it doesn’t matter what will happen. I will always be there and I will always love you.’ My foster sister was blessed with an amazing family to be born into. Not everybody is blessed that way.

 This month there’s another girl turning sixteen. A girl who is probably more like me than my foster sister. Her name is Isolde. She lives in a facility for children with special needs in an Eastern European orphanage. Isolde has Cerebral Palsy. Her perseverance has been tested to the limits. She has probably been through more trauma than most people experience in their entire life. All these years she has probably felt unwanted and unseen. Life has been throwing curve balls at her from birth. She doesn’t have a family that cares for her. But she’s too young to take care of herself. She’s too young to fight just to get through another day. She’s too young to deal with the trauma all by herself. She shouldn’t have to. She needs a family who will love her and take care of her. A family that has as much patience as she needs to become a grown, independent woman. Isolde needs a family, before it’s too late. A family needs to be committed to her before her sixteenth birthday.

Please, don’t be afraid to love a sixteen year old that has never known love. Don’t be afraid to take her in your home, to have her around your children. Please, give her the opportunity to experience what it is to be loved, to be a daughter, a sister. Give her the opportunity that I got when I was almost sixteen. Because it changed my life forever. And the change for Isolde would be so much bigger. A family would give her a future. Life in an Eastern European facility for people with special needs is no future. In seven years she might be able to live a close to normal life. But someone has to give her a chance, just like my foster parents gave me a chance. And someday she’ll look back and realize that you gave her the best time of her life. I know Isolde personally and I know that she will make the most of it. I’m praying that in seven years she will be a young woman like me. I’m not free of trauma and I still struggle to really accept love. But I’m getting there. I’m getting married next year and in a few months I’ll be graduating college as a social worker. How I wish to see Isolde get a degree, find love and get married.

 Next week I’ll be celebrating the sweet sixteen of my foster sister. Together we’ll blow out the candles. We will hug, make silly faces and enjoy the love that we feel for each other. Who will blow out the candles together with Isolde? Who will make silly faces with her? And who will let her feel loved?

 So please pray with me for Isolde. And ask yourself if you could be her family. But please, share her story. She has an adoption grant, feel free to donate towards it, so that the family who will adopt her, has less of a financial burden. Make her seen, so that hopefully, soon she’ll know she’s loved.

 To learn more about her, watch this video or read her profile on Reece’s Rainbow:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcjaw6vnUa4&feature=youtu.be

http://reecesrainbow.org/52891/isolde

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