Thursday, August 9, 2018

In the Spotlight ~ Zebra House

Today is the day we usually share interviews we've done with awesome people doing amazing things in their communities. We thought, instead, that we'd put the spotlight on a local charity that is very close to my heart: Zebra Centre.

IThis is a child protection place for children who have experienced trauma and/or abuse. The team consists of an extremely loving and caring group of police officers, lawyers, psychologists, social workers and children's advocates. They also have a fantastic group of heart-felt volunteers.

When there are very serious allegations, children are removed from the home, and put into a safe place until the Centre, and those they work with in the community, decide that the home is a better environment for the child to return to. This can be a very stressful and upsetting time, especially for the child. Oftentimes, they leave their homes with what they can fit into a suitcase or garbage bag while leaving what they'd always know, even if it isn't the greatest place, behind. But they are never left to fend for themselves or simply handed off into the system. The Centre is there from beginning to end, giving them what they always needed but most likely never trusted: security and protection.

Zebra House focuses on the victim and his or her family to build back strength. You can tell the immense love and adoration they have for children as soon as you walk through their doors. The entire space is child-focused and child-centered. Hand drawings on the walls, books, games, a room with a mock fireplace with tons of quilts and afghans. And the 'professional' side is kept distant from the child side, which I thought would be even more of a comfort to children already untrusting and scared. They even have a room filled from floor to ceiling of new toys to choose from after a session. The touching thing is that any donation made to the room has to be a brand new item. When remembering these children left their homes with barely anything, allowing to choose something new to keep with them is a beautiful treat.

Years ago, I was drawn to Zebra Centre when researching local charities that help children in need for an article I wrote. The woman who ran the Centre then isn't there anymore but I still feel her presence when I'm there. She truly inspired me to be where I am today and do what I can do to advocate for these children. In fact, I offered to fill a shelf with new books called, 'Chynna's Shelf', to give the gift of reading, which can be a wonderful way to tune the world out for just a little while. (And as a sidenote, a portion of every book of my own I sell goes right to them.)

The Centre isn't just another place to help kids. It is a model for how these situations should be dealt with and for how children who have been victims should be treated. It is a 'home' for those young ones who never really felt like they had one.

The woman I met long ago told me that the reason behind the name of the Centre is that zebras are incredible animals. She said that when there is a threat from a predator, the older zebras will literally form a circle around the babies to protect them from harm. I could not think of a greater picture to describe what these people do at the Centre.

This beautiful place is very close to my heart for many reasons. I wish there had been such a place when I was young. Perhaps, the young me would have been able to feel stronger, safer and more secure in myself, as well as have a greater trust in others.

But, we have such a place now and they conduct miracles every day. For all you do, Zebra Centre, we put the spotlight on you all this week. I, for one, am so grateful you are there.

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