In this blog series, we will be continuing to reflect upon meeting ELEM teens and young people and the dedicated professionals and volunteers who have given so much of themselves and their time to improve the lives of these youth. In each of our visits to witness with our own eyes how a relationship with a trained and trusted adult can change the lives of troubled teens, we return tremendously inspired.
However, it isn’t so simple.
It is paramount to us to present the inspirational stories of transformation in a way that protects the privacy of our youth. It’s easy to forget how public our lives are on the internet and so these stories must be told with false names, changed cities, and doctored photos. By protecting their privacy, we allow them to change and grow at the speed and security that they deserve.
Secondly, we at ELEM pride ourselves as being culturally competent and are sensitive to the values of the environments from which these teenagers come. For example, one story we can tell is about Charedi teens who choose to leave their community and lifestyle. If we solely focus on the new freedoms that they can now experience by leaving their traditional society behind, we would be missing the pain that these teens face by leaving the world that they know.
Another issue is showcasing the incredible transformation that is realized by the generous ELEM donations we receive. As you can imagine, it is challenging to measure personal transformation. You never know which kind words, concern or advice expressed by an ELEM staff person might positively affect one of our teens and result in positive change tomorrow, the next day or years later.
Every person is a product of their environment. Our teens are affected by the context of their lives which includes their family relationships, school, peers and the society in which they live. Our teens have complex family relationships and environmental dynamics. ELEM staff strive to address a myriad of problems way beyond the challenges of helping one teenager at a time. Understand that these stories reflect many layers of challenges and obstacles.
As you will read in the months ahead, the stories, even with all the restrictions, are tremendously moving, reflecting deep and abiding connection, hope and transformation.