In Honduras, therapeutic play brings healing for orphans

By October 27, 2016

Honduras (MNN) – “We stick together. No hits, no hurts. And have fun.” For the children of San Jose Orphanage in La Paz, Honduras, the three rules taught by Mireya Sevilla, Director of Honduran Programs for Asociacion Manos Extendidas (the partner NGO for Orphan Outreach) have become part of every day life. And they are changing hearts and minds.

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(Image courtesy of Amy Warr Photography for Orphan Outreach)

“In order for children to feel safe, they need to trust, they need to learn a different set of skills. They need to go through a process of being taught to act differently, to think differently,” shares Sevilla. She has been working with caregivers at the orphanage to provide trauma-informed care to children who are often rescued from abuse and neglect. TBRI-based nurture groups have been taking place for a year, and a pilot program offering therapeutic play and activities has now been introduced to the older children.

When a child is traumatized, Sevilla says, “They are in a state of alarm all the time. It’s like having a shot of adrenaline coursing through your bloodstream. We’ve all experienced that from time-to-time — it’s a natural response to danger. But the children who have gone through this kind of trauma and neglect or even abuse live with this kind of adrenaline 24/7. It’s very tiring and frustrating for them because they do not know how to convey how they feel.”

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(Image courtesy of Amy Warr Photography for Orphan Outreach)

Nurture groups have made a powerful impact on the children thus far, Sevilla says. “They still practice the rules, and they continue to understand the principles, and they have learned to trust not only the caregivers, but also each other. They are now allowing themselves to calm down and start to use words instead of actions, because behavior is a child’s language when they have lost the ability to self-regulate.”

The therapeutic pilot program from Orphan Outreach is the first of its kind in Honduras, offering activities and games that reinforce emotional and spiritual healing. The program is founded in the principles of  Trust-Based Relational Intervention. “The pilot program that is going to be used in other countries around the world, I’m so excited and so blessed to know that we started doing it here,” shares Sevilla.

“The children were able to laugh, to be children, but still also have deep teachings and understanding about themselves and about others in coming together and learning, and having a purpose for the games and having therapy while we were playing. They didn’t even know it was therapy. They didn’t feel like it was a burden or something they had to be so serious about. We were able to see and use different techniques, and different games that allowed them to go deeper into feeling safe.”

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(Image courtesy of Amy Warr Photography for Orphan Outreach)

Incorporated into the therapeutic play is Gospel-centered teaching about God’s love and care. “The children understand we are not alone,” says Sevilla. “We have been incorporating also Scripture with the activities the children are doing, and this I think brings it to light and to life. Not only something that came from the understanding of those who understand the therapy, but bringing the first and most important thing, which is the Lord, because the Lord restores everything and He redeems time.”

At the heart of both the nurture groups and therapeutic play is healing for the children. Sevilla believes a brighter future is possible.

“My hope is that all the children, through all this work we are doing with them, will be able to break that cycle and will be able to take all the techniques and everything they receive and one day when they become parents, they are going to be better parents because of it. They are going to be loving. They are going to show and nurture their children and allow them to have a safe home because they have been receiving that — in everything that we receive, we are to give. And I know and I trust God that everything they learn is going to go so deep in them, that it’s going to be a part of how they act and how they live, and it’s going to just be something they will pass on to their children and their children’s children.”

You can be part of Orphan Outreach’s ministry efforts in Honduras through child sponsorship or by joining a 2017 mission team now!

One Comment

  • Gwynn Torres says:

    This sounds like a very insightful program. Getting children to laugh and have fun breaks down so much of their resistance to accepting new things. I hope this program gets followed everywhere. Congratulations.
    Gwynn Torres
    The Creativity Institute

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