Weavers of the Legacies:
Breaking the Cycle of Domestic Violence
Often home is not a place of healthy relationships, but a place for unpredictable danger. Some of you have seen or witnessed domestic violence in your home or community, and it leaves you or your friends with a lower self-esteem. Did you know that low self-esteem can hinder your ability to solve problems nonviolently, to develop meaningful relationships or attachments to caring adults, and that it can cause difficulties in social interactions with friends? Do you ever begin to wonder why you feel afraid, unprotected or abandoned through direct or indirect abuse, neglect or witnessing parental or community violence?
How do you react when you are caught in the middle of a family fight? How do you create a safe place for yourself? Where do you go to play? Does playing help you feel more in control? Where do you go to pretend to have power over what is happening at home? How do you express yourself to feel more resilient? What acts of nonviolence have you taken to protect yourself?
Domestic violence and child abuse occurs more often than we can imagine. It is not limited to a culture, religion or geographic region. And, oftentimes, many of the victims of child abuse end up becoming abusers as adults. Yet, there are ways to get help. You can share your feelings and experiences with those whom you trust?a grandparent, parent or teacher, for example.
I am a grandmother who is concerned about this societal problem. I'm preparing a workbook for teachers, parents/guardians and community leaders to help them make a difference in the lives of children living with domestic violence. Let's work together to bring hope in place of fear.
I would like to hear from you. I invite you to share your indirect or direct experience with domestic violence and/or child abuse through your poetry, prose or any other creative work.
By sharing your experiences, you'll help us develop an understanding of the need and urgency to address the effects of domestic violence on children and youth all over the world. Your voices will be included in the workbook. To help you express your pain, fears and survival, you might wish to use any of the following questions?
- How do you show empathy and understanding of others who experience violence in their family?
- Is there any fighting where you live? Please draw a picture of what you see/hear.
- When you experience violence, what does the monster look like? Where do you hide? What's your worst fear?
- How do you create a safe place?
- Who do you trust when trust has been broken at home?
Thank you for giving hope to the many children who endure violence within their homes. You can write to me c/o Skipping Stones magazine.
-- Marti Elizabeth Harmon
Cocooned in sleeping bags,
Haphazard on the floor,
Thirty wriggling caterpillars dance in the semi-dark.
And tonight, we learn by beauty.
We are fed by poems whose words
Are caught in the web of our heads
As butterflies caught in a net.
A song whose notes have hung gracefully in the air for centuries
Crafted to echo off cavernous cathedrals
And vibrate the spidery glass.
Songs in languages we cannot comprehend,
But with warming harmonies
Like spiraling tendrils of steaming cocoa.
Wrapped in our cocoons, rocking in the arms of the boat,
Protected from the drumming rain that haunts us,
We worry only about peace.
-- Becky Wright, high school senior
Becky writes: Transformation was inspired by my memories of the summer camp LPC (Leuthi-Peterson Camps), to which I've been going for five years. LPC was founded by my great-aunt after World War II so that children from different sides of the war could realize that people were people, no matter what country they came from. Last summer, I went to a little town called Heidenskip in the Friesland region of the Netherlands for four weeks. We get to know each other quickly and learn many things from each other. We shared 14 different languages, translating every announcement and learning songs in over a dozen.
Understanding and acceptance are important for many reasons, partly because I have relatives from several different countries, and now, thanks to the camp, I have many close friends around the world that I am still in touch with. However, I also believe acceptance is important because of my younger brother, Danny. He has both ADHD and Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of autism, and he has to struggle immensely to just be normal. Taking time to understand a person and the reason behind them is important to me because I have seen the pain and frustration that Danny has to deal with because people judge him without knowing or caring who he is.
I am an American citizen, and also a Tanzanian citizen. You can call me Tanzanian-American. "Having dual nationality is a blessing. It means you have two cultures to choose the best from...," says Mama. My parents are Tanzanians. They come from a strong tribe known as Chaggas found in Northeastern Tanzania at the foothills of the famous Mount Kilimanjaro. Mama has taught me a lot about Chagga traditions, cultures and heritage. We are a strong and a close family because of our heritage. We eat Chagga foods. My favorite dish is the famous ndizi -- green bananas, peeled, cooked with some seasoning, and eaten with beef or chicken stew. Mmmh! Yummy!
Occasionally, I put on our traditional dress when we go to church. It is fun to look different. I have definitely inherited my Mama's strong-willed personality. Mama teaches us moral values, behavior, and its elements. From the very early days of my life, my Mama has been teaching us values such as respect for all -- young and old, black and white -- honesty, obedience, and love towards one another. According to Chagga traditions, it is not only considered disrespectful, but you can even get punished for talking while an adult is talking. First born sons are expected to be strong and to protect their siblings and their family.
In addition to moral values, Mama also teaches us to learn and accept moderation in every way of our lives. "Moderation can set you free from temptation, anger, anxiety, frustration, sadness, etc. If you live a modest life you will be more content with what you have than what you don't have; you will be able to handle or avoid competition and temptation." Mama always tells us that we are neither better nor worse than others. Because of Mama?s teachings, we are growing up aware of who we are, where we come from, and what we want to be. It has been easy for us to adapt quickly in any environment we chose to live; it has helped us to interact well with different people, and keep on learning a lot from them.
I'm told, "If you walk in the foot-steps of a stranger you will learn things you never knew before." So I'm not afraid to move to a new place anymore. It is fun to learn new things from new places, meet new people, and above all, make new friends.
Our traditions and customs embrace Umoja na Uhuru?unity, tolerance and freedom. My parents? birth country of Tanzania is the only country in Africa that has no tribal or ethnic conflicts, and has never experienced war, even though it has about 130 tribes. It's the only country in Africa known for its political stability and peace among its people, united by their language, Kiswahili. Everyone, young and old, can speak Kiswahili. I am learning some Swahili, too.
-- Alvin J. D. Maeda, 7
Recently, we received a poem, "Sugar High" from Emily (see excerpts), that helped us decide to write this issue's Health Rocks page about sugar in our diet.
You might like to tell us how you manage to eat candy and other foods with sugar in moderation.
Summer is almost here, and that means ice cream, lemonade, popsicles, and -- WAIT! Is there a way to enjoy a treat in the heat without all that sugar? And is sugar really that bad for you, after all? Let's take a look.
First of all, sugar tastes good for a reason: your body needs it. In order to get energy from the food you eat, the body must first convert it into glucose, a form of sugar. When you eat sugary foods, your body can get that energy even quicker. However, too much sugar, or the wrong kind, is bad for your health.
Your body uses a chemical called insulin to keep your blood-sugar levels balanced. When you eat a lot of sugar all at once, insulin can overreact, thinking that the influx of sugar means you've eaten lots of food, even if you haven't. It redistributes the blood sugar too quickly, leaving you hungry and tired soon after you've eaten.
Sugar and Your Immune System
Sugar won't give you the flu, but it can sure help the flu get you. In your white blood cells' fight against viruses and bacteria, vitamin C is one of their most powerful weapons. But the chemical structure of vitamin C is a lot like the structure of sugar, and the two can end up competing for space within the white blood cells. Without much room left for vitamin C, your white blood cells don't have the secret weapon they need to battle flus, colds, and all kinds of other sicknesses you definitely don't want to get.
Plaquethe filmy stuff that sticks to your teethacts like a fly-trap for the sugar in the foods that you eat. When bacteria appears on the scene, it attacks that sugar and breaks it down into acids that eat away at your teeth. So to prevent cavities, make sure that when you do eat sugary foods, you brush your teeth right away!
A Complex Situation
Sugars come in different forms. Simple sugars, like white sugar, or the kind found in candy, cookies and ice cream, are the worst for you. They enter the bloodstream quickly, and can trigger an enzyme that helps store fat.
Complex sugars are found in fruit and grains, among other things. These get broken down much more slowly and are released more steadily. Since they don't cause such a rapid rush of sugar, insulin levels can remain steadier, as well. This also means that you don't get hungry as quickly.
There are all kinds of ways to enjoy summer treats without the added sugar. Smoothies made of blended fresh fruit and yogurt are always a favorite. You can make your very own fudgesicles by mixing eight ounces of plain yogurt with 1/4 cup sugar-free cocoa. Pour the mixture into paper cups with popsicle sticks stuck in the top, and freeze them until they're solid.
For homemade mango sorbet, just puree a can of mangos with ½ cup carbonated water, 1/3 cup honey, and a tablespoon of lime juice. Put the mixture into an ice-cream maker and follow the machine's instructions.
When making other favorite food recipes, try to substitute honey or molasses for white sugar when you can. And cut down on the amount of sweetening that the recipe calls for by 50%. Your body will thank you!
-- Shannon Brady Lattin, intern
Univ. of Oregon