The group of children from various Baptist Children’s Homes locations stand in front of those gathered for Sunday worship. The group sings and some of the boys and girls share their testimonies. When 16-year-old Victoria steps to the podium, her audience leans forward. Her voice rings clear and her bright eyes seem to engage each listener.
“Good morning,” she says. “I want to share with you this morning that without your help, I would not be the person I am today.”
Normal for some children is far from normal – Victoria believed her life while she lived in Maine was normal. Her mom and dad divorced when she was very young. Alcohol and drug abuse by her mother created a home life where she and her brother became caregivers for their mom. Victoria’s brother would work to buy food and took care of his little sister. When she was 12 years old, he left for college. “That’s when I began to raise myself.”
Things began to slide further into despair when Victoria discovered her mom lying on the floor with an empty bottle of pills beside her in a suicide attempt. She discovered her mom later after she had cut her wrist, surrounded in blood and barely conscience.
“I began to feel it was all my fault that everything was happening,” she recalls. Victoria started cutting herself to cope with her emotional pain and confusion. Her self-harm, although momentarily offering a sense of calm, furthered her deep feelings of guilt.
After her mom’s third suicide attempt, the department of social services stepped in contacting her dad. Victoria would move to North Carolina and live with him “Up until then, I thought every kid’s life was like mine. I didn’t know the difference.”
Victoria moved, but she kept her secret. Finally, the bundle of emotions inside bubbled over. Fights with her dad and stepmom and conflicts with her half-sister made things tenuous at best. “My behavior eroded what trust my parents had in me. I took out my hurt and anxiety on my family.”
Determined to help Victoria, her dad and stepmom sought help. Counseling for Victoria and strong support from family friends made things bearable, but it wasn’t enough. That’s when Camp Duncan for Girls became an option.
“When I learned they were thinking about sending me to Camp Duncan, I said, ‘No, this is not going to happen.’ I felt like I was being thrown away. I was angry.”
Victoria’s disposition changed as she discovered how Camp could help. The anger subsided as caring Chiefs listened to her hurt and shared ways for her to cope with her past. The more she learned and experienced, the more she realized how much she had needed help.
“I never realized it then,” she says. “I thought I was okay. But I’m so much happier now. I’m hopeful.”
Victoria says her dad and stepmom can trust her again. She says she is trusting them more and more. She listens to them and knows they care and love her. “I know they have my best interests at heart.”
Living a new normal agrees with Victoria. She looks forward to returning home and being a high school junior. She dreams of going into the military.
“I’m still working on things,” she says. “Camp has given me the tools to succeed. With my family’s help, I know all my dreams will come true.”
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