According to the United Nations, “Parents of every race, religion, culture and nationality in all parts of the world are the primary caregivers and teachers of their children, preparing them for a happy, fulfilling and productive life. Parents are the anchors of the family and the foundation of our communities and societies.”
The General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed June 1 as the #GlobalDayofParents, looking to pay tribute to mothers and fathers around the world. They are pillars of family structures, communities, societies, and we recognize their importance in the upbringing and development of their children, biological or not.
For this very special month, Virlanie Foundation is delighted to honor our house parents, the unsung heroes who are behind all the children of the Foundation.
In a series of interviews, mamas (PART I) and dads (PARTII) entrusted with emotion their love and devotion for the children of the Foundation.
PART 1 – Dear Mama …
“Being a parent is about sacrificing your life,” says Mama Stella, 56, house mother of Masaya Home. Even with five biological daughters, Mama Stella has been working with Virlanie for eight years now after hearing about the organization in her church. “I do not regret my decision. Although it is not always easy, the love you give to a child is most important. ”
Home after home, the faces of Virlanie’s house mothers become thoughtful throughout their narrative, as they try to choose the right words to describe the work they do through the relationships they build.
“It’s a huge responsibility,” responds Mamsie, house mother of Ella Yallah Home. “Although we are not biologically related, it doesn’t make any difference. I owe them that. At home, they count on me to help them. The presence of a parent is essential to not just to teach children and young adults to respect the values of the community, but also how to be independent and responsible in order to get into the workforce … ”
At Ella Yallah Home, Mamsie looks after 14 young people aged 13 to 18 years. It’s been 20 years since Mamsie started working for Virlanie, and she loves her role as a house mother: “I had only one child and I love working with young people, so Virlanie was an obvious choice.”
Two blocks away is the Babies & Toddlers Home, where Mama Andrea welcomes us with a broad smile. As a “new” house mother in the Foundation (barely three months into this new role), she tells with passion her various responsibilities: “As a parent, there are a lot of responsibilities. I have to manage the house staff, while taking care and watching over our children. It is not always obvious, but there’s a lot of work to be done. ”
However, despite some difficulties, she recognizes that personal development is immense.
“Becoming a parent changed me a lot,” says Mama Andrea. “I must be an example for the children, so I had to learn how to carry myself, and learn a new way of life.”
This transformation has also been reported by Mama Stella. “It’s not just a physical change,” she explains, “Becoming a parent changes you psychologically, too. Now you don’t just think about yourself. You also think about the problems and welfare of your children. You take the time to listen, play, and help them. This is family. ”
When working with the children, Mama Stella can barely conceal her excitement. Her eyes sparkle and her lips split into an endearing smile. “Talking about my family moves me all the time.”
When she refers the the children of Masaya, it’s so natural for her to call them her own. She stresses that every child has the right to have a family, to have a mom and dad, and to feel protected and loved.
Here is the common desire of all the mothers surveyed in the various Virlanie homes: They want to see their children grow up in loving homes and become responsible, respectable adults.
PART II – The love of a father …
Papa Gerry puts his glasses on his nose. He slowly reads the various questions typed on paper, nodding. “The answers are not all obvious,” he says with a smile. With a slow gesture, he stands up and starts.
Papa Gerry works as a house father in Virlanie Foundation. “I started working for Virlanie in July 2006, so it’s been almost ten years,” he says wistfully. “I’ve always worked with the children at Aime Home. At first, it was not easy. There have been difficult times, but with God’s help, I held on and I’m happy. ”
Aime Home takes care of children and young adults with disabilities: mental retardation, physical and medical problems, autism and / or Down Syndrome. “It is my responsibility to care for them and love them,” says Papa Gerry, “I must also prepare them to become independent. Kids from Aime have various disabilities, so it is important to train and support them so that they can take care of themselves. ”
In his words Papa Gerry remains humble. “The role of the father is not really different from that of the mother. Like the latter, I must be an example. I teach children how to behave but also how to be themselves and thrive, ” he pauses, looks thoughtful. “However, my presence is important in the home. The children I look after are aged 10 to 21 years, and it is normal that some have tantrums or behave destructively. In such situations, it is sometimes difficult for mamas to be able to control everything, especially with the young men. That’s when I come in, because they need a father figure, representing the authority and strength. ”
However, Papa Gerry in its methods and behavior, away from the traditional image of father connoted ensure morality, discipline and economic support within the family. “My parents raised me in a very strict traditional upbringing, but in Aime Home it’s different. I learn a lot from children on how to better understand them. I really need to put myself at their level in order to feel their emotions, so I learned to be more patient and to listen.”
At the end of the interview, Papa Gerry places his glasses back on the desk. He sits up in his chair and takes a more serious tone. “I really want Aime Home to continue in its mission,” he said. “I hope people will continue to invest and give, because without them, this program would not exist. We need volunteers, but most importantly, we need parents for these children and youth.”
If I could have one wish for our kids, it would be that they can become independent. But also, that they may one day be reunited with their families. That would be great! ”
Papa Gerry is only one of the many Virlanie house fathers. We are grateful for all the father figures who recreate a family structure in our Foundation, and we know that our work would not be complete without them. We honor all the other fathers in Tanglaw Home (Papa Ricky), Masaya Home (Papa Jess), Jade Home (Edwin, Angelo, Ferdinand and Francisco) and Marco Polo Care Center (Papa Noel).
A big thank you to them for their help and devotion every day.