As an evening Child Advocate, I often help prepare children for their upcoming court sessions. When I began this role, it struck me as absurdly simple: tell the truth; if you don't remember, say so; if you don't understand a question, ask to rephrase. Pretty straightforward.
But if it were that simple, we could cover it in a phone call or even an email.
I learned the nuances quickly – they were spelled out in each child's body language; their downward gaze, their mumbling responses.
To be sure, some children appear confident, and they lift my spirits. Others, however, remind me of the great responsibility and honour it is to help.
I recently met a determined but scared young girl who, nervous as she was, opted for an early court prep. We covered the basics, and like most children, she picked it up pretty quickly.
The magic, however, came as we discussed her fears. We had her share of them, and as we discussed each, one by one, I watched her demeanor slowly brighten, her gaze grow more direct, her smile begin to form. It signaled relief and greater self-assurance.
Gradually, her questions became more and more insightful. In fact, in my nearly four years at the Zebra Centre, no one had thought to ask many of the questions she posed. She was being proactive – fighting her fear with knowledge.
I was humbled by the experience. I did my best to provide answers, convey compassion, and assure her that she wasn't alone. But she did the real work. She learned, faced her fears, and left determined to tell her story.
I walked out of the building that night inspired by her courage.
- Zebra Volunteer Rick