Note: This is a report sent to the Flower Essence Society by Suzana Loreto, which has been edited and summarized for publication. The report chronicles her work and research over a two-year span of time with a children’s shelter, Lar Do Nenen, in Recife, Brazil. Read more about Suzana here.
Introduction to Lar Do Nenen
This is an account of the experience with the use of flower essences at a shelter for 0 to 2-year old children, who were abandoned or were in situations of risk. I became a volunteer worker at the shelter with the intention of “mothering” those children and stimulating their development, which was backward in most of the cases. As those children were extremely destitute of love and care, I thought of using flower essences as a way of being able to “have them all on my lap at the same time.” I started by using the remedy indirectly, adding the essence to the lavender water used after they washed, spraying the environment and in the drinking water. Later, the use became more systematic for the purpose of the research. Although the fluctuating characteristic of the population has made the research unviable, positive outcomes could be observed.
Lar do Nenen is a non-governmental, non-profit institution which is financed by donations. It is run by a volunteer board of directors made up of five members and has a team of 13 employees who work a shift system; their role is to look after children from 0 to 2 years who have been abandoned or are in an at-risk situation.
A child is considered abandoned if found in a public place, not knowing where their caretakers are. An at-risk situation is one in which the child, although living with his/her family, suffers from physical or psychological abuse or from neglect.
A child is referred to Lar do Nenen by the Tutelary Councils and then legal proceedings begin at the Youth Court for adoption by a new family – either Brazilian or foreign – or return to the family of origin.
The institution has a capacity for 25 children and was created to be a transitional shelter, where children would stay while waiting for the legal process to be completed. For bureaucratic reasons however, this period can be up to two years. The children remain here until the whole process is completed, even if their age exceeds the usual age range. All the children who have passed through Lar do Nenen have had their lives turned around, by either being adopted or returning to their family of origin.
I became a volunteer at Lar do Nenen with the aim of creating a maternal bond with the children and hoping to stimulate their development, since the vast majority are slow developers. When I realized that the number of children was very large, and that they were greatly lacking in affection and hugs, I thought about flower essences as a way of being able to help them all at the same time.
Start of treatment
This time, as well as using the essences in the lavender water, I added 10 drops of the solution to be used in 120ml of water in a vaporizer bottle and sprayed in the environment. I let the fine spray rain down onto the older children who loved it and complained when I stopped (I would do this about twice a week). I put a few drops of the solution directly onto their wrists, chests, foreheads and behind the ears of the younger children (less than 1 year old).
I continued trying to stimulate the children with games and music, but did not achieve much because all they wanted to do was sit on my lap. When trying to play in a circle, all of them wanted to hold my hand and I did not manage to form a circle. When I brought crayons, they either wanted to chew or hold more of them than anyone else, but they never wanted to draw.
At the time, I went there three times per week and I used the flower formula in the air (10 drops of the solution to 120ml of water in the vaporizer); I dampened the older children a bit and made a cream with the Mariposa Lily and Evening Primrose essences for the younger ones.
I then used a combination of floss-silk tree, strong back, milkweed, mandacaru cactus, coral vine, golden shower, damiana,and chorus magenta. This is for basic nutrition and joie de vivre, when there is somatization after physical pain.
I used 1 dropperful in the 20 litre dispenser because we noticed that the water was also used to make milk and juice, and in this way there would be greater contact with the essences.
I returned to using Mariposa Lily (Calochortus leichtlinii) and Evening Primrose (Onenothera hookeri). As there were no particularly aggressive children, I didn’t use the Holly.
After a month, I changed the formula to include:
Evening Primrose (Onenothera Hookeri) – to cure the deeply traumatic wounds in the adopted children or in those who are unwanted and who have subconsciously absorbed the feelings of rejection and abandonment
At that time, I felt that just even one child being able to learn a game was enough to leave me feeling happy.
Large-leaved lime – Platyphyllos – receptiveness to love and maternal, nurturing warmth
Valerian – Valeriana officinalis – tranquillity and pacification, helping the child to overcome tension
For oral use – 4 drops, 4 times a day, with 10% brandy. I used nettle (Urtica dioica) in the vaporizer in order to assist relations between all the members of the institution, with lavender to help calm the children, in a dilution of 7 drops of the basic essence to 120ml of water.
Other information such as personal identification and historical data was to be collected from the records available in institutions and, when possible, by approaching someone who had a family tie with the child in care.
The children cared for in the other institution had their behavior evaluated at the end of the 6 months, using the same form.
21 children from Lar do Nenen were selected because they were in the same age group as the children from the other institution.
The data was to be compared in two different ways:
Observations on the research protocol
I therefore gave up the “research” and kept observing only.
The majority of the children took the formula mentioned above – the heart of the issue being investigated – to compensate for a lack of love and hugs as well as to alleviate the pain of abandonment and separation.
For some children we made individual formulas to deal with more specific situations:
b) For children who were always suffering recurrences of the same illnesses, Self-Heal (Prunella vulgaris) was added to help the child’s self-confidence and self-assurance and to help the child rely on his/her own strength to feel well.
Even though the essences were not being taken as frequently as desired, some changes could be noticed:
The children of 3 and 4 years asked to sit on our laps, whereas before they would have tantrums and behave badly instead (thereby exchanging a negative stance for a positive one).
A little boy of 1 year who could not sit or stand up by himself, even when holding onto his cot, and did not make any sounds at all, began to make babbling noises and to sit up alone and stand up with support.
Two months from when the work began, 7 out of the 21 children who had started off in the study had left, to be adopted by a new family or to return to their family of origin.
Four-year old L., who always looked away rather than at us when we were talking to him, accepted a reprimand for having done something wrong, looking steadily at me, and is now better at accepting “no”.
M., of 2-and-a-half years, began to say her first words, not having spoken until then.
Two-year old F. has reduced her self-comforting behavior (sat, rocking backwards and forwards). When she is put into her cot, she cries and complains, in contrast to the apathy she used to show. This kind of reaction, which I saw as something positive, is considered bad behavior and tantrums by the members of staff.
The slowest children are becoming cleverer and more demanding, which makes the employees’ work more difficult. Perhaps one of the difficulties in getting them to participate in the project – apart from the idea not existing at the shelter at that time – is that feeding and dressing the children is enough for them, anything else is a luxury. My attempts to show them that inside every child there was a person, that the children had experienced so much suffering and my argument that the extra work of administering the flower essences would be rewarded with the children being quieter and falling ill less often, did not have an effect. I didn't manage to reach the souls of these women, who also have their own stories of suffering.
The employees’ work was not easy: they had to care for the children with love and affection and then see them leave without hearing of them again. By order of the Courts, saying goodbye to a child was not permitted when he/she was leaving, nor was showing sadness, or that you missed someone.
Hawthorn – (Crategus oxyacantha) – eases the pain of separation and alleviates sadness.
This formula was to be used, 4 drops, 4 times a day, for situations involving separation and disruption.
At this time, many children who had been at the Lar for about 2 years were leaving. Therefore, I put in the vaporizer a dilution of 7 drops of the basic solution to 120 ml of water Bleeding Heart and Nettle.
These departures had a profound influence on everyone, from the employees who had become attached to the children, to the other children who were staying. Often the children wondered when their own turn would come.
The children were suffering many bouts of flu and were surprised at the changes, since every time a child left, another one arrived. We gave them
Dill – (Anethum graveolens) helps assimilation of new experiences.
Garlic – (Allium sativum) gives strength and vitality, helping relieve fears and anxiety.
Arnica – (Arnica mollis) alleviates the trauma of yet another separation.
Bleeding Heart – (Diocentra formosa) brings peace, harmony and detachment.
Rhododendron – (Rhododendron ferrugineum) for freeing repressed emotions from the chest area.
During the period of time, of the 21 children who began the project, four remained, two of whom were awaiting a family. This left me frustrated because I couldn’t carry out the project as I had planned, and I felt I was failing.
Today, I realize that we achieved great success. After all, our mission was to set the lives of these children on a new course and when we began the project, the vast majority of them had been there some two years with their lives on hold. Through the systematic use of flower essences, the processes were sorted out and the children left. I hope that the flower essences contributed to soothing the trauma of their abandonment and maltreatment, so that they felt stronger and more prepared to face new lives, sometimes even in another country, with parents they would be seeing for the first time.
Suzana Loreto Maia has a degree in Psychology with a specialization in Psychomotricity, an area in which she worked before becoming a flower essence therapist. She attended a Terra Brasilis development course on therapy with flower essences, and since then has used flower essences with her family, friends and adult, mostly women, patients.
Over the years, she has done additional volunteer work at a crèche for low income 2 to 6 year-olds, aiming to provide the children with the opportunity to overcome the barriers which interfered with their development and joyfulness to live. She is currently doing volunteer work with the parents of the children sheltered at ‘Lar do Nenén’ (‘Babies' Home’), under the co-ordination of an arts therapist. This job involves craftwork, with the objective of improving their self-esteem and producing income, though flower essences are not being used with this group.
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