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The everyday stuff

Life skills training is an important part of the House of Opportunity Programme. Most of the young people that join the programme have some significant knowledge and skills gaps, enough for it to be a serious issue if not dealt with. Even for young people from a loving family, parents will fret over whether they are truly ready to look after themselves when they leave home for the first time. So, for those who join the House of Opportunity having grown up with neglectful parents, or in state care, special attention is given to the areas where they may be struggling.

At the newest House of Opportunity, in Comrat, Moldova, the first year’s intake of residents is making progress in learning how to manage their daily lives, but not without challenges.

Lena resented having to prepare meals and had a special disdain for making soup. Lena resisted being told how to cook, declaring, “I cook well”. The other girls did not like the way Lena cooked… In a recent conversation, Lena admitted that during her time at the House, she has, in fact, learned how to cook. This was in stark contrast to her previous claims. Lena shared some important moments from childhood. Her father did not devote much time to her, and when she lost him, she stayed with her mother, with whom she had a difficult relationship. Lena says her mother did not help her to do homework, that school was a struggle, and she was often humiliated by her teachers. Her mother never taught Lena to cook, did not even pass on the simplest of household skills. However, Lena has been acquiring the skills she needs at the House of Opportunity, with real progress being made in the kitchen. She is now able to prepare at least 14 dishes, which is a very useful range of meals. Lena has more to learn, but she continues to build her skills base. She has even begun to like soup.

Some new residents may be able to cook or clean well, but their inability to manage relationships with others can leave them vulnerable to feeling isolated and lonely. This can make them a bit of a target.

House resident Snezhana is quite responsible and well-behaved. She always tries to be helpful. Her desire to please people often led the other residents to take advantage of her. If rooms were left untidy, or plates unwashed, Snezhana would do it. The other girls joked cuttingly and made fun of Snezhana. The team could see this hurt her, but she would not respond. A house meeting was called, with personal borders, and how to manage them, the topic. The House parent led exercises where each girl could share about their relationship with the group, and their expectations of the others. Snezhana was at last able to express how she felt about all the unpleasant jokes and exploitation of her willingness to help. The attitude of the other girls towards Snezhana changed perceptibly over the next few weeks, the ridicule and sharp words ceased. Snezhana herself began to feel freer, becoming more confident – able to express her opinions and share a joke of her own.

Sometimes young people joining the House of Opportunity programme have no idea what to do in even the most basic circumstances, but they pretend they can manage. Sometimes, a young person may know what to do but they lack the confidence to act. Both can lead to trouble. Dramatic transformations and turnarounds make for good stories, but it’s in the small lessons, learning the everyday stuff, that progress is most often made. And we love the everyday at House of Opportunity.