12-year-old Ruby has been attending Body & Soul since her mother, Maria, registered in 2008. She is a member of Base, our programme for 10-12 year olds affected by HIV. She lives with her mother and her three siblings: David (aged 4), Sarah (aged 7) and Chantal (aged 10). Their mother is currently seven and a half months pregnant.
Ruby began to struggle recently when her younger sister Chantal joined Base. Chantal’s move from the children’s centre to Base coincided with their father being deported to Germany under an arrest warrant for three years. The family were also threatened with eviction from their home. Although Maria did not tell her children explicitly about these issues, Ruby and Chantal were clearly aware that something was afoot. Ruby began to withdraw in Base sessions in January. At meal time, she had to be convinced to eat even a small amount of food.
Ruby was therefore given one-to-one time with the head of the Base programme to allow her the space and opportunity talk about any issues that were concerning her. She talked about noticing a change in her mother’s emotional state. She also discussed her fraught relationship with her Spanish teacher at school, as well as some WhatsApp messages between friends in which rude language and suggestions of bullying were celebrated. Ruby was also open about how difficult she was finding it to have her sister in ‘her’ space.
Ruby’s withdrawal from the group in Base, her disruptive behaviour in Spanish class, and her aggressive displays with peers at school were very out of character for her. We therefore spent a lot of time with her, exploring how else she could manage her emotions in certain situations. We also arranged group workshops that addressed some of the issues she was facing, e.g. how to deal with difficult social interactions both on social media and in person.
Towards the end of the quarter, Ruby told us that, following one of the Base sessions, she had spoken to her Spanish teacher in a constructive manner about why she sometimes found the classroom environment difficult. She said this felt like a good conversation and hopes that this will continue to improve their relationship in class. There has been an evident change in Ruby’s general mood over the past few weeks in Base. The one-to-one support will remain in place for the time being so we can continue to monitor and address the problems Ruby is having at this difficult time in her childhood.