This is one of the personal questions we asked orphanage staff during a 'Life Story Work' workshop in Chiang Mai as we encouraged them to recall their favourite memories as a child.
Our own life stories are critically important to us. People who are fortunate enough to grow up in a loving family will have heard their parents, siblings, grandparents or even close family friends tell numerous stories surrounding their birth, what they were like as baby and toddler, and perhaps even as a grumpy teenager Ð and usually whether they like it not! But all these stories are important because they build a picture or who you are and where you come from, especially of the times you were too young to remember yourself.
Children who grow up in an orphanage don't naturally get that kind of attention. Sometimes children enter the orphanage with little or no documented family history. Unfortunately, children who have no sense of belonging are often deeply insecure (which can result in disruptive behaviour), and find it difficult to make and maintain positive relationships with others, which in turn can make their transition into a family more challenging.
Our Life Story Work workshops train orphanage staff and family placement workers to create a 'Life Story Book' with each child in their care. Their job, over a set period of time, is to create a documented history of a child's life with as much information as they can gather. It's bit like investigative research project, using whatever they can: the child's own memories, old photos, friends' stories, orphanage files, city records - you name it - to document the child's life to date. This becomes a highly personal book that the child is free to decide who can view it, but is a critical tool to help clearing up some of the muddles in his/her own foggy memories, and move forward in life with a bit more reassurance - especially if it is into a new family!
We were delighted to invite and host Life Story Work training specialist, Toni Adriano, from the Anglia Foster Agency in the UK. Together with Care for ChildrenÕs training team from China and the UK, we spent three intense days introducing the concept of Life Story Work for the first time to 12 staff representing three orphanages.
The feedback we received was unanimously positive - here's a selection: