“If the parents do not complete parenting classes, go to court ordered rehab, or just quit the treatment program then their rights are relinquished. That means that legally, they do not have any parental rights over their children and the children are taken away from them and placed into an adoption program. Basically all of the kids housed at St. PJ’s come from an abusive home, whether it’s sexual abuse or their guardians are addicted to drugs, they are all placed here by CPS [Child Protective Services] to get away from the harms at home.”
Imagine being a child again; innocent, hyper and trusting of your peers. First and foremost, you have yet to understand what ‘fear’ is. The natural yet alien emotion is something so few ever experience, especially at such a young age. However, for the children at St. PJ’s, whether or not they understand ‘fear’ and ‘anger’ is a completely different story.
Naturally, people go on about their everyday lives without a thought about domestic abuse or how orphanages, adoption centers, rehabilitation centers, or children’s homes operate. Their existence may even be a mystery to many since caring about victims of abuse isn’t on everyone’s daily agenda. St. Pj’s, when looked at from afar, would be considered as a church or “fancy” school for the privileged, however the sad truth is that St. PJ’s is a home for those whom have experienced the horrors that many will never face in their lifetime.
During spring break, myself and three friends were on a mission to be more “altruistic” (as Mr. Arnatt would put it). Our English assignment required for us to do five hours of community service, which we were mildly excited about. After a bit of research and a few trashed ideas, Taylor Sheeran contacted St. PJ’s Children’s Home and learned of their mission to provide safety and joy to victims of abuse and neglect. We never expected to become so dedicated to our work as we did.
From 1-3 pm on a Sunday afternoon, Taylor Sheeran, Issac Guitierrez, Sara Chavez and I ventured off to St. PJ’s Children’s home in downtown SA, curious as to what we would be doing for the next three hours with over thirty small children. After checking into the main building and figuring out who we would be working with, we walked across the campus to what looked like a rather large house accompanied with a playground. Inside, we found the beautiful faces of about 25 children running about and playing with toys.
We originally thought that we’d be beautifying the campus, however the lovely director instructed us to play with the kids.
The following three hours could be described in two adjectives; “pure joy”.
Pushing five to ten year old kids on Barbie Jeeps, playing tag, hide-and-go-seek, and coloring is something many haven’t done since elementary school. The four of us soon became attached to the group of kids, running around with endless energy.In the back of our minds, we understood that these kids have been through so much pain and abuse. In most cases, neglect was the leading cause for the children to be taken away from their homes.
Throughout our three hour venture, we learned so much about how hardship plays a huge role in these children’s lives. I quickly became attached to a little girl there and wanted to adopt her as my little sister. However, we all learned that St. PJ’s is entirely fueled by donations aside from federal grants. Federal grants make up only fifty percent of finances to St. PJ’s. Therefore in order to provide extra clothing and campus beautification projects, donations and volunteer hours are necessary.
Moral of the story, volunteering at St. PJ’s is rewarding in so many ways. Stepping into a child’s life for a couple hours, or just dropping off a few toys, is an experience that can forever change their lives.
If you have any questions, would like to volunteer or donate, please refer to St. PJ’s website.