The following is a conversation I had with a very special girl, Ashley that I met in 2018 at a conference.
We became very close because of what we do, to make our world better.
She works with little children and helps get them talking what is on their minds.
Me: Hey Ashley
Ashley: Hey there. (brings her arm closer to mine for a handshake)
Me: Do you recall my face? From the Uganda Alcohol Policy Conference…
Ashley: Hhhhmmmm….yyyeaahhhh, I think I do
Me: Aaahhhh….that’s great. I guess I’m off the hook
Ashley: Yyyeeaahhhh….you were wearing a long-sleeved white office shirt and a pair of black trousers, carrying these gadgets in your hands as you moved up and down
Me: Wow….you have a great memory…I can see
Ashley: I don’t know. I guess I am good with faces, may be.
Me: If I recall well, you were lying on your back, in your yard right next to your friends, the super-heroes
Me: Okay then. I came to pay you a visit today for a chat that we were supposed to have last year, in December but have kept on pushing it forward. Is it okay if we have it today?
Ashley: Sure…sure thing. No problem. Give me 5 minutes to get ready and I will be with you, in a second. Make yourself at home.
Me: You are so kind. Thank you.
Me: Aaaahhhh….there you are. May we get started now?
Ashley: Sure….we can
Me: Okay. My name is Ntensibe Edgar Michael. Many people prefer calling me Edgar or Ntemid. Feel free to call me by any of them. I have a particular interest in children, how they live their lives and their parents, as well and how they go about their lives.
Ashley: Ooh….that’s nice. Ashley is my name and basically, that is what everyone calls me. The children say I am nice and kind. I guess you will let me know if you agree with them. I am the kind of person that gets children laughing and talking about anything and everything, in my own ways.
Me: May I ask why you do that?
Ashley: Sure. Perhaps what I did not share with you, is that I treat and rehabilitate people with a drinking problem, of course, among many other things. I ensure I get them back to those days and moments when their drink was not a problem for them. Doing this involves me bringing in child-friendly services into the whole picture of treatment I pass on the parents. That includes a lot of talking, hugging, hi-5’s, pats and rubs….fun all the time.
Me: Wow….I would really love to be a part of this experience
Ashley: Nnniiiccceeeeee….allow me explain further how we get talking
Ashley: Do you see those small cards there?
Me: Yes. Can I touch them?
Ashley: Sure. No problem. They are all labeled according to how we feel around here. From being confused, bored, angry, small, helpless, lonely, guilty, sad, hate, unfair, scared all the way to being invisible. Note that the colour on each of those cards and the faces they make at you, when you look at them. We are careful not to mix up our feelings when we are talking about them, you know.
Me: Nnniiiccceee….what of the masks? I see a Spiderman there.
Ashley: Oh yeah, a child can wear any mask available there to them, catering for how they are feeling at that moment.
Me: The super-heroes. They were among the first people that caught my eye and could not resist asking about them. Are they part of the team here?
Ashley: Yes, they are. Very much so.
Ashley: So, they basically serve a similar purpose as that of the masks, only that they are a part of our residence that you are looking at. When we are at home, they offer us protection from those bad people around us…like the boogey-man and Mummy and Daddy when they are fighting. When the shouting and fighting begins, all you have to do is call up your super-hero and they will be right there with you, to protect you from those bad people.
Ashley: Yyeeaahhhh …. it’s so comforting for these little ones and they really love them.
Ashley: You like it?
Me: I do.
Ashley: Wait for the best part….the house
Me: Tell me about it, pplllleeaaasseeeee
Ashley: Okkaayyyyy. It’s a simple house as you can see it. Just like any typical home, it’s got a court-yard, garage, sitting-room, a kitchen, bed-rooms, master-room, a play-room amongst other things.
On a typical day, I get to have one child at a time that comes to me, to talk about what is happening at and inside home. It can be anything from a disorganized bed-room to a broken door-lock or a window.
Or a situation that took place at home; say over the weekend. The child gets to point to that specific area where it happened, as they are holding their mood-card and so, we get to pick it up from there. It is more like lifting off this burden from their shoulders to ours. Within no time, we are back to our smiling ways….happy all the way!
Me: Nnniiiccceeee….this is very interesting. I used to see this, only in the movies but I’m surprised to be seeing it here, first-hand. Has it been successful, so far?
Ashley: Yyyeeaahhh….to a given extent, yes. I mean, not everyone fully understands how it works but once you give it your all, Baby Jesus always does wonders! You know, there is me, Ashley. I am just a doll that the children hold or hug as they get talking. Am I not so infectious? (Hihi…)
Me: It’s so sad that I haven’t been able to see it all in action. I hope to, some day.
Ashley: It will be an honour, I assure you. You will not regret it.
Me: I must leave now to be in time for my next program. Thank you ssooo much for your time, Ash. Let us do this again some time.
Ashley: It is a deal. Thank you too. Cheers.