Monthly Archives: January 2013

Healing the Attachment System

 

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My observations in India – just as my much longer experience in El Salvador – have led me to question the idea that the way to heal attachment disorders is either by the establishment of a potentially secure attachment relationship through adoption or foster parenting, or through intensive and lengthy psychotherapy. That is not to say that I saw uniformly effective healing in either place, but just that I observed alternative healing methods that seemed to me to have promise. 

In each children’s home, for example, there are multiple caregivers, at least one central parental figure, and (when all is going well) a secure environment. The secure environment is not only associated with the person of the caregiver but is also related to adequate food and shelter and freedom from threat. At Love and Hope, Rachel is the central parental figure, and the children also have important relationships with the tias and tios (female and male caregivers), the cook (as witnessed in the “papusa maker” video), and a social worker and psychologist on staff; the high caregiver-child ratio is one of the strengths of the home. At Deenabandhu, there are two central parental figures – Prajna and Prof. Jayadev – and the important continuity of one (the same) skilled and caring teacher throughout the early years of school. In addition to these strengths in each home there are the important relationships between and among the children – age mates and older-younger pairs. Perhaps the power of the peer relationships is enhanced by aspects of the culture; in El Salvador it is not uncommon to see a young boy carrying a baby on his hip. At any rate, the richness of the interpersonal environment offers many opportunities for finding security in a trusting relationship, contingent social interactions, and the subjective experience of caring and personal recognition. 

 

 It is important to recognize the apparently contradictory results of the Romanian orphanage studies that point to the dangers of early institutionalization and the need for a primary caregiving relationship such as through adoption or foster care (Zeanah et al, 2011, Fox et al, 2010). When viewing the films of the children in these orphanages, the caregivers appear to be surprisingly pleasant and sometimes engaging in friendly, even helpful, interactions with the children. The main problem, I guess, is the lack of contingency of caregiver responses, especially in infancy. That is, the children are fed without reference to their cues or initiatives, aggression in the free play situation is not responded to helpfully, and the caregivers do not play with the children. I guess I would suggest that the big difference I observed between what I saw in the films of the Romanian orphanages and what I saw at Love and Hope and Deenabandhu is greater personal involvement of the caregivers and the children so that relationships were encouraged, the children were known for who they were as little individuals, and there was a lot of interaction between caregivers and children – in play and in academic learning. This is related to the idea of “magic moments“, or “lost momentos magicos” of earlier posts. 

I am reminded of Bruce Perry’s observations that traumatized children initially do better when allowed to seek out particular caregivers to fill specific personal needs – such as one caregiver to roughhouse with, another to provide food, another for comfort at times of emotional distress, another to help with homework. I am also reminded of Peter Fonagy’s therapeutic model of mentalization. That model avoids directly engaging the attachment system without simultaneously working on building reflective capacity that can guard against what one might call the “regressive pull” to intense destructive relationship patterns that were established in early childhood. Fonagy’s model was originally designed to treat adults with Borderline Personality Disorder, many of whom have experienced early trauma. However, it seems to me to be equally relevant to children – at least those with the cognitive capacity for mentalization – who cannot trust adult caregivers and cannot comfort or care for themselves. None of this means that developing a trusting and loving caregiving relationship with a single person is not healing. It is just to say that – at least now in my thinking – I am leaning towards the idea that there are multiple ways of healing the attachment system of children who have experienced trauma and severe neglect.

 

I hope my readers can make comments on this posting.

 

Bos K, Zeanah C, Fox N, Drury S, McLaughlin K, & Nelson C, Psychiatric outcomes in young children with a history of institutionalization, Harvard Review of Psychiatry, January/February, 2011, pp. 15-24; Fox S, Levitt P, & Nelson C, How the timing and quality of early experiences influences the development of brain architecture, Child Development, January/February, 2010, Vol. 81, Number 1, pp. 28-40).

 

Photograph by Ginger Gregory

 

 

 

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Discipline

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 This is just a brief posting on a big subject that always seems disjointed to me when it is discussed out of context, but also a subject that parents and other caregivers have such headaches about that it deserves attention now and then.

There are two main points I want to make about discipline in this piece. The first is, discipline serves to maintain safety and to communicate values. The second is that discipline frequently gets mixed up with deep – both unconscious and nonconscious – reactions in the caregiver that influence the way the discipline is delivered. We all know both of these points. I am going to simply comment on examples of good discipline I have observed both at Deenabandhu and at Love and Hope and try to identify some of the features that make them effective. As for the deep reactions of the caregivers and how they influence the caregiver’s behavior, I will leave that for a later entry. Some insights for parents about this issue can be found in Parenting from the Inside Out (Siegel and Hartzell, 2003).

One observation I have made is that it is often easier in children’s homes than in single families to establish a consistent set of rules and consistent consequences for noncompliance with those rules. At Love and Hope these rules for behavior are listed in colorful posters on the walls of the dining hall. These rules also communicate the Christian values – such as generosity and compassion – that play such an important role in the life of the Home. Consistency takes some of the stress out of discipline from the point of view of the caregiver. That is very important, because those deep unwelcome reactions that cause caregivers to “blow up” at their children are in part stress reactions. In other words, the loss of perspective and even loss of control on the caregiver’s part is probably mostly generated by stress. If the caregiver can stay calm and reflect on the situation, he or she is more likely to respond to the child’s behavior appropriately (that is, in a way that fits his or her best values). 

There are many ways to address the stress reactions that interfere with good discipline practices, and consistency in rules and consequences is only one of them. When caregivers can gain insight into the deep reactions, it is also useful. However, insight is a “top down” phenomenon, and often the stress reactions of the lower parts of the brain trump attempts to keep perspective with the thinking brain. When the caregiver can also use a “bottom up” response to stress, insight is even more effective. Bottom up strategies include ways of calming, or regulating, oneself. 

One way of doing that is to disengage, that is, try to distance oneself from the intensity of the situation. That can be very helpful and is commonly called “time outs” either for the child or for the caregiver. Physical distance is often a critical part of this strategy. Another partial solution to this caregiver dilemma is the support of another caregiver, either in a partnership or in a group. When individuals develop supportive relationships with each other, they offer not only ideas, but also implicit patterns of mutual regulation that can be engaged when one caregiver is stressed, and that is calming. It is a cliché to speak of two parents working as a team in setting limits for their children. Yet, the stress generated by a noncompliant child can polarize caregiving teams, also. So, it is best to try to use all of these strategies when disciplining children. 

Finally, there is the function of communicating values. This relates to Peter Fonagy’s “epistemic cues”. Values in a culture are transmitted by the way the caregiver communicates, not just what he or she communicates. If the caregiver, in the context of a trusting relationship, lets the child know that the child’s behavior is simply not acceptable – through calm but firm voice, facial expression, and gestures, indicating significance by emotional tone – the child will learn that behavior is unacceptable. This is key because cultural values fit the cultures they belong in, and they cannot be transposed from one culture to the next.

Let me give you an example of what seemed to me to be effective but also culturally specific discipline from Deenabandhu. At Deenabandhu, just as at Love and Hope, the expectations for behavior are clear, as are the consequences and usually involve taking away something small such as no television on one of the rare occasions when it is allowed. The little boys were throwing food in the courtyard. Prajna gave them a consequence. She explained to them and to me that food is given to them to eat by the benefactors of the ashram and produced by the efforts of the farmers, and that therefore wasting food is not acceptable. You can see that this reasoning would not work particularly well in most families in the U.S., but it works here. The values that are being communicated reflect the meaning of giving and serving that I mentioned in an earlier posting. Another time, Prajna gave the boys a similar consequence for running through the courtyard without restricting themselves to the lighted areas. It initially seemed to me a pity to stop them, because they were having so much fun and interacting so well as a group. However, Prajna explained that there might be snakes in the dark (sometimes cobras! One boy had recently been bitten by a non-poisonous snake.) And also trampling the plants was not acceptable. Then I understood.

Siegel, D. & Hartzell, M. (2003). Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive, New York, Penguin Group.

photograph by Ginger Gregory

 

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More About the School

 

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The second day, Ginger and I observed pre-K and K, in two different classrooms. In both classrooms we observed the same excellent practices. First, each teacher began the day with an extended regulatory exercise. In the first classroom, teacher and children performed several kinds and rhythms of jumping, hopping, and “swimming”. In the second classroom, there was a long dance, led by the teacher. In each class, all the children were happily involved in the activity. They were not standing in rows, but were in a loose structure. However, the fact that the movements were organized (not “free form”) and led by the teacher, seemed essential to the regulatory function. During the dance several of the boys formed a united front and decided to not participate, and the teacher ignored them for a couple of minutes. Eventually she motioned to them and they went back to their original spots and danced, though one never did. 

 

Also, in each class there was a story. The lower K teacher told the story without reading it; it was long and animated and she spoke with a compelling voice. She told us later it was the story of two friends. The other teacher was an excellent readers in that she used a lot of animated facial expression and hand gestures, her vocal tonality had variety. Both teachers engaged the children in finishing sentences and answering questions about the story. Interestingly, the children were not expected to raise their hand to be called on, but instead, the teacher responded to them when they began to speak. There didn’t seem to be a problem with taking turns. Another observation we made was that the teachers seemed to concentrate their attention on positive behavior. When certain children became somewhat disorganized and their attention strayed, the teachers appeared to not notice and focused more particularly on the students who were following the lesson.  This had the effect of drawing the stragglers back into the fold. I noticed a couple of instances of physical conflict between two boys; the teacher seemed not to see this, but I imagine she did notice and chose not to intervene. In fact, the boys desisted within a short time and did not resume their conflict for the rest of the morning. Also, the teachers tolerated disengagement from children during the lesson. When a particular child strayed from the group, they did not call him back, but let him roam a little. This seemed to give the child a chance at self-regulation, and these children all eventually rejoined the group activity. 

 

There was a “boat” – a structure like a rocking chair but one that children could sit in like a rowboat – and once in a while a child would enter it and rock, then return to the lesson. The major part of the curriculum was organized around a project. For example, in the second room the teacher was showing the children how to fold squares of newspaper so they could then blow into them and shake out the folds, making a pop. The children seemed to love this activity, and all children were engaged. The children assembled themselves in small groups or pairs, though some worked alone (and those who worked alone seemed to do that rather consistently, making me think that solitary working was more effective for them, at least at this time in their development). At the end of the day, the teachers were assembled in the resource room, and Ginger and I finished what we began the day before, this time focusing on the “classroom interventions” for children who show the signs of early trauma or neglect. We pointed out that the teachers were already doing most of what we had recommended, and we described what we had seen during the day. Then I showed my video of a little boy from El Salvador illustrating the benefits of responding to a child’s initiative at his level of competency (Vygotsky, 1967) and then “recognizing” (Sander) his change in status (from one who does not know how to do something to one who does know how to do that something).

A colleague directed me to this excellent article about self regulation in the classroom. http://www.cea-ace.ca/education-canada/article/self-regulation-calm-alert-and…

Vygotsky, L. (1967). Play and its role in the mental development of the child, Soviet Psychology, 5: 6-18. 

photograph by Ginger Gregory

 

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The School

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Ginger went to observe in the school with a group of other visitors the first day. When she returned, she had many positive things to say about the school and the teaching. Every classroom they visited had active engagement of almost all the children. The teachers were tolerant of children having conversations with each other while working on projects. There were no desks. The students moved freely from place to place during the classes, while still staying engaged in their work. The teachers maintained a calm, contained environment. 

The teachers managed lack of participation and disruption – potential or actual – in an unusually skillful way. In one class on Social Studies, the students made paper lanterns and discussed a topic about profit and loss in an animated and involved way; the students who had trouble actively participating in the discussion, had something not disruptive to do with their hands in a self-regulating way, allowing them to listen and follow along. A little boy in the upper kindergarten who wanted to be part of a puzzle activity during a free choice time had difficulty collaborating with the puzzle doers. The teacher came up and put a hand on his shoulders and to calm him and support his efforts, and when that was not successful, guided him to another activity that had a more sensory basis, sorting seeds. He never sorted the seeds the way everybody else did but sat next to another child and kept scooping up the seeds and letting them fall through his fingers, his way of participating. He tried to take seeds from a little girl, but she set a clear boundary and he stopped. 

The teachers consistently displayed a calm and receptive manner, quietly acknowledging individual children’s successes.  In the upper kindergarten classroom, each child had to bring the teacher his or her journal when finished with each lesson, so that she could mark it. In that way no child was allowed to fall behind or drop out. The kids seemed to expect it to be a good day. Even at the end of the day, the children did not seem eager to leave.

After the school day was over, Ginger and I gathered in the Resource Room and gave a presentation about helping children learn. In addition to showing some videos of El Salvador that offered an example of adults facilitating learning in an infant, we concentrated on teaching about early developmental problems that can interfere with learning, introducing Dan Siegel’s model of the brain (Siegel, 2012) and Bruce Perry’s Neurosequential Model, and also offered some interventions designed for the “bottom up” healing of developmental problems that affect learning, such as breathing exercises, regulatory breaks of various types, and meditation (which is culturally syntonic here). The teachers were receptive and and stayed late to listen. At the end, Prajna suggested that we continue the next afternoon, so we did that.

After school, Prajna brought over tea and biscuits, and she reflected on how the school had changed over the years that she had known it. She discussed the project-based learning curriculum, a change from the original lecture-based curriculum. They eventually moved to what they called an activity-based instruction method in which they added structure to a project-based model. In that way they “grew” their own curriculum, adding structure to allow for more helpful classroom control. She explained that the teachers remain with their classes through the lower grades, providing a continuity of the caregiving role of the teacher. Prajna also mentioned her belief in the value of practice and structure in learning. 

Then I did a little work of my own and later followed her to the dining room where the older children (“standards” 5-8) were doing homework. It was now 7:00, and the children would not eat until 9:00. There were thirty kids, both boys and girls, sitting in two circles on the floor, and Prajna was the only adult in the room besides me. Prajna was leading a lesson on English grammar, and of the twenty children sitting with her, all of them were actively engaged for more than 40 minutes, eagerly offering answers to her prompts.  From time to time, a child from the other circle, where the children were working together in small informal groups doing math, would come to ask Prajna to review their work. She always interrupted to do this, and she gave a non-effusive but affirming response to each child. One thing I noticed is that Prajna immediately responded to each child who made a bid for her attention, even if it were for a few seconds; I remember being impressed with Rachel’s habit of doing this at Love and Hope.

Siegel, D. (2012) The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are (Second Edition). Guilford Press.

photograph by Ginger Gregory

 

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The Act of Serving

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As I consider these comforting rhythms of daily life, especially those involved in food preparation, I remember the video I have of Love and Hope that I call “The Papusa Maker”. Sarah Measures took the film, and she pointed out to me how much the little girl of 6-years old watching the cook make the papusas was learning. Of course, she was learning how to make papusas, but she was learning much more. She was learning “sequencing” by watching the cook as she moved through the specific acts involved in making papusas, in the same order, again and again. She was learning to tolerate frustration as she constrained her own activity. She was also learning about respecting boundaries as she observed an older boy flip one of the papusas, giving him instructions, but not attempting to do the job belonging to an older child until she herself was a big girl. In addition, she was most likely exercising her imagination, dreaming of herself as a “papuser maker”. 

I then wondered what I could learn from my observations of meal preparation that I could bring back to my families in the U.S. It is hard to recreate a lengthy, methodical process of food preparation in the U.S., where busy multi-tasking two-career parents have a hard time even sitting down to “take out” with their children, let alone letting their children watch them prepare multiple courses from scratch. It does occur to me that the experience of a child watching an adult perform a meaningful sequence of repetitive acts in the context of a caring relationship offers a learning opportunity we rarely consider in the U.S.  I am aware that one cannot transpose the features of one culture onto another, but I am hoping those reading this posting will send me some ideas about how parents in the U.S. can create for their children some of the comforting rhythms and learning of food preparation at Deenabandhu and Love and Hope. 

This preparation takes hours, but the children have already risen before sunrise and eaten their gruel to assuage their hunger before their activities. They join us at breakfast after these are completed. The children sit on the floor and chant their prayer. Most of the children chant in an animated way but some stifle a yawn. Then one of the children designated as server, or one of the adults, serves all of us. The act of serving also has special meaning.

Prajna explained to me that the act of serving is an experience of giving, the expression of generosity; it communicates love and in that sense is self-enhancing. This belief was given special meaning by an experience I had with Prajna one evening at the girls’ dining hall. 

Prajna and I walked to the girls’ residence to give them supper. An amazing sight ensued. We carried with us a metal container of the rice and vegetable meal the cooks had prepared.  Prajna crouched in the middle of a circle of about 15 young girls with the container of food between her legs. Dipping her cupped hand into the food, she scooped out a round handful and ceremoniously place the ball of rice into the cupped hands of a waiting child. This was repeated for each child in the circle, Rajna adjusting her body position so that she was facing each child as she served her. When they were all served, Prajna asked, “Next?” and the girls eagerly extended their little hands. One after another she cupped her hand and served another ball of food to each waiting girl. It was the ceremony that was most impressive, including the face-to-face, social moment in which language and the face and the body were all engaged in a rhythmic, repetitive, perfectly contingent social activity. I thought that if this occurred on a weekly basis it would be essentially healing. I think it is what Bruce Perry talks about, and Peter Fonagy too.

 

 

photograph by Ginger Gregory

 

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The Preparation of Meals

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The preparation of meals plays a major role in the life of the ashram. Every morning when I would get up early and make my way in the dark to the kitchen, I would encounter three people, seated on the floor of the kitchen working. The first is a slender woman in a sari and wearing a black braid; she is very shy. She is always either chopping or sorting. For chopping she uses an instrument that stands upright and has a vertical blade that she presses the vegetable against, so that the slices fall to one side and the other. Next to her on the floor, either on a cloth or in large metal bowls, are the vegetables she is chopping – small white onions with purple stripes, small eggplants – purple or green, a large green vegetable with a ragged skin that tastes like a cucumber, and on and on. Often, Micah, a lovely German volunteer, is seated next to her, chopping green chilis. There is an unending supply of chilis, which feature in every dish. There is also lots of garlic, so that the garlic shells accumulate in a filmy pile at her side. At the other side of the small room, there are always the same two boys – one a teenager and the other smaller but still one of the “big boys”. Their job is to prepare the coconut. The older one cracks the coconut – sometimes with a knife and sometimes against the edge of a stone step. Then they take out the flesh, and the younger one chops it into pieces and then slices with a big knife, while the older one grates it against a rough metal knob. These tasks are usually done in silence, but the sounds of the chopping and scraping create a coordination of rhythms that seem to have the meaning of doing something together. 

When the woman is not chopping, she is sorting the herbs. Out of a large flat basket, she takes fresh coriander, a medium sized shiny green leafed herb I did not recognize by smell or taste, ginger, and other spices, and takes off the dead pieces and stems, then chops them. Sometimes the boys speak softly and laugh together. Other times someone, like me, will enter the room, and the woman or Micah, will ask me if I would like coffee. When I say yes, one of them will rise and boil the water for strong, fragrant, organically grown coffee that is as good as I have ever tasted. It occurs to me, as I stand there drinking my coffee, that this is a good way to start the day – connecting with one another through the soothing regular rhythm of the activity. Even though they are doing hard work, it must be calming for the cooks too, to be doing it together in this synchronous way. I ask to help, but they always decline my offer. Perhaps if I had stayed longer they would have allowed me to join them.

There is a small room with a stone sink and a big bowl with a giant blade in it, next to the kitchen. The cooks – including Prajna, who was filling in for the ailing cook for part of the time we were there and in fact was always busy in the kitchen – pour vast quantities of flour and water and other specific ingredients into the bowl and turn on the motor; the blade flaps, stirring the pasty batter for the bread. In the cookhouse, a few stone steps from the kitchen, the wood fire is being prepared. There is room for two huge metal pots on part of the stove and the griddle is on the other. The breads are cooked on the griddle – a wonderful assortment of breads over the days – poured like pancake batter and turned and then piled on a large metal plate ready for the meal. In the pots, either vegetable dishes or grain – not only rice – are prepared. What is remarkable about the boiling pots is the subtle fragrance of their contents as they bubble on the fire.  Someone told me that the herbs and spices are added separately to the pots to preserve the distinctness of their flavors. Some of the pots are cooking beans or lentils. Into some of the pots the cooks add chopped tomatoes, carrots, and potatoes. When it is ready, the food is delicious, entirely vegetarian. Instead of the sauce with indistinguishable contents that is characteristic of so much Indian food, even here, at Deenabandhu the vegetables in the sauce have maintained their integrity. One can also taste the individual spices now and then. I don’t think there are any leftovers.

 

photograph by Ginger Gregory

 

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India – Deenabandhu Trust: First Posting

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Ginger and I landed in Bangalore early Saturday morning. The first sight I had of India was twinkling lights in the dark from the plane. The airport is modern and clean. We made our way through passport control and customs with an extra security check after landing, similar to El Salvador. On the other side of customs we found the representative of the travel office, who located our driver. We got into his new taxi, and we were off for Chamarajanagar. 

The driver said it would take us maximum of 4 hours to get there, but we started at 10 of 7:00 am and weren’t there by noon. Two reasons we were delayed were speed bumps – apparently every few yards, and also that we stopped for a “coffee break”. The Indian restaurant we stopped at served us a crispy brown pancake with a vegetable paste inside and two sauces. It was a cozy family type restaurant on a veranda with bamboo trees creeping into the seating area. 

It took us a long time to even get out of the city of Bangalore, which seemed to go on and on forever. There were shops and people, but the cityscape was most remarkable for the large buildings that seemed half constructed, and gave a sad, forlorn quality to the scene. The poverty, manifested in small shacks and storefronts with dingy signs and flimsy construction, reminded me of El Salvador. In fact, except for the local writing on some of the signs (most were only in English) and the occasional Hindu god, it could be mistaken for El Salvador with one exception – the newer buildings though prematurely shabby were on a much larger scale.

In one charming observation from the car, I saw two school girls, dressed in neat white uniforms with navy scarves, facing each other and playing the clapping game that I have seen in the U.S. and at Love and Hope.

We drove through countryside with fields of rice and sugar cane, and then a city calling itself on a green sign”The City of Sugar”, after that, other cities, and then the big city of Mysore. After Mysore, the countryside became more beautiful. A lovely mountain range in the distance framed a green landscape, which up closer was made up of red dirt dotted with trees. We finally arrived in the small city of Chamarajanagar, which resembled the outskirts of San Salvador, or even a huge Nejapa, with its small, dilapidated shops and dusty dirt roads. One important distinction from a Salvadoran city was the bright colors of the women’s clothing. Even in the impoverished areas women wore magenta and chartreuse saris, lighting up the dusty dirt streets in a dramatic way. The driver got directions from some men on the corner and turned down a dirt road. Much later, we arrived at a pleasant cluster of recently constructed houses that were the Deenabandhu Trust buildings.

Prajna came out to meet us. She is a beautiful young woman who left a high paying job working at Cisco Industries to devote herself to orphanage work and began to work here full time. Now she is the primary administrator, along with the man she calls “Uncle”, G.S. Jayadev, the founder, who is in Bangalore at the moment with his ailing father. Professor Jayadev teaches zoology at a local university but has written many books on multiple subjects, and founded the first orphanage here twenty years ago. Prajna told us that the children at the home come from a variety of sources, though most of them are not actual orphans but rather are children of parents who cannot care for them for various reasons. Those reasons include extreme poverty, mental illness, incarceration, and single mothers working in the sex trade. 

Our first introduction to the children was at lunch. The children in the “boys’” part of the home (occupied by boys, their caregivers, Prajna, and a small number of girls who live either with Prajna or with another woman caregiver who lives in a house in this section of the compound) were seated in a large empty room on mats, ready to eat. They were being served from large metal pots by some of the youngest boys whose current job was that of server. This job, I later learned, has special meaning here in that it is considered a gesture of giving, and in that sense, self enhancing. After being served, the children chanted a prayer. Just as I remembered from Love and Hope, the chanting of the prayer was animated and highly rhythmic. It seemed to organize the children both in their independent self-regulation and in their position as part of a well-regulated group. I mentioned this to Prajna, and she noted that before their lessons she leads them through a brief breathing exercise to help them prepare for studying. The meal was a delicious vegetarian meal of some kind of curry, chapatti, curd (yoghurt), and bananas grown by the children. The bananas were unblemished, ripe, and unusually sweet. After their meal, the children all take their big metal dishes and cups to the washing up room and wash them with water, then stack them in place in a large open rack with wooden slats. 

Prajna told us that the two youngest children are 4-years old, a girl and a boy. The Trust dedicates itself to the care of these children until they – especially the girls, Prajna told us – were economically self-sufficient. Some of the children have gone on to high level study and training, but Prajna assured us that the Trust was satisfied if the children grew up to be independent, happy young adults in less high status employment. Prajna took us on a tour of the buildings that house both the 77 children who live at the orphanage, called the “ashram”. The boys live in several free-standing houses, with one house parent in each house. The 16 younger boys lived in one of the houses with one house mother. In the two other houses, 8 older boys lived with one housemother.  The girls live in a new building that is a pride of the Trust. It is painted green and also obtains a significant amount of its electrical energy and heat from solar panels in the roof. An attractive, airy building, it includes multiple sleeping spaces and living spaces separated by internal staircases and corridors. Many of these passages are open to the air, so they are not only lit by sunlight, but they are cooled by breezes. Even in the winter, the temperature is warm by Boston standards, and the encircling mountain range drains the moisture in the air, so that it rarely if ever rains. 

photograph by Ginger Gregory

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