Yesterday, I met with Sister Hend, the superior of the congregation that runs the House of Wonders. She determines the overall direction of the work, decides about staff rotation, and manages the finances. Whenever we want to discuss big ideas, we go to her.
After lunch, we sat down together to talk about the situation at the House of Wonders. So far, it acts as a shelter home and an emergency accommodation. Homeless people, beggars, ex-prisoners, victims of domestic abuse, divorced women, acid victims, street children – everyone finds a place here. There is no condition for getting admission and the sisters don’t demand any fees. Some people are brought in by their relatives, some by the police, and a few come by themselves. There is the street child who doesn’t know his parent’s names, there is the disabled daughter who was rejected by her family, and many other cases. Most of the residents have some sort of mental or behavorial disability, and many are actually traumatized. In the House of Wonders, they find a safe haven, they are clothed and fed and their basic medical and personal needs are taken care of. However, once admitted, people usually stay for many years, or even until they die. In very few cases, their families take them back home.
Until today, no real concept has been developed that goes beyond the emergency help described above. Many residents pass their days dozing in the shade of a tree, chatting with others, singing, or watching TV. Many help with household chores, but not everyone is fit to do that. The sisters offer physical activities and art therapy on an irregular basis. But too often they have their hands fulll with administrative work. A greater vision is lacking, an idea for how to serve the residents beyond their most basic needs.
In our meeting, Hend and I developed the fundamental outlines for a new concept. We asked ourselves: what kind of institution should the House of Wonders be? What can we offer the residents once their basic needs have been met? What short-term and long-term goals exist with regard to each person living there? How can we help them to create an alternative life, another existence beyond the pain and trauma they went through?
Hend and I saw our brainstorming as a first step to initiate a longer thought process about the home. She will take the ideas we collected into her community, discuss them with the sisters working at the home, and develop an outline for a new vision based on their input. Visions can only come into reality when they are carefully nurtured, and when people have a chance to grow with them. The more contextualized and localized our vision will be in the end, the better.