As I step outside of the project offices, I am struck by the ordinary-looking, working-class, and foreign-named stores and cafés occupying the neighborhood, abruptly divided by a beautiful, tree-lined path.
Who would suspect that nearby this idyllic, homely setting, boys are being treated to overcome unspeakable sexual abuse and exploitation? Who would imagine that young men do indescribable harm to their sisters and mothers because the women are expected to carry the honor of their families on their shoulders?
But it is all around us. Abuse. Exploitation. Done to boys. To girls. Who are Young. Vulnerable. Alone. Abuse happens because your mother goes to work early and can’t take you to school in the morning; the friendly man who talks to you as you take a morning swing at the playground before you shuffle to class may not be your friend. He might be your abuser.
Or, a brother who is forced by his father to punish his sister because she was caught walking home with a boy after school. He is your abuser, too.
I had traveled to Berlin to visit projects with my colleagues from Childhood Germany. They had selected two organizations working with younger and older boys, faced with sexual traumas and cultural demands.
In our work, we as project managers strive to understand, to help prevent but also to help heal children’s trauma, to empower them to become strong, productive, and vibrant adults.
A bucolic setting can throw you off, take your mind away and make you see the beauty in our surroundings. And it can remind you that prevention is always the better option; and when that is not possible, there must be healing to be found.