Wrong turn

By February 5, 2021 May 13th, 2021 House of Opportunity, Stories

Rada* was lost. But one path seemed a little better than the rest.

A foster family took Rada in when she was 12 years old. But things didn’t work out as hoped-for. Having lived in the state-run orphanage system since she was born, Rada was not used to family life, and had developed behaviours that worsened, rather than faded, as time went by. After four years, the foster family could cope no longer, Rada went back to the orphanage. The foster family stayed in touch, wanting to maintain contact with Rada, and support her where they could.

Turning 16, Rada was given a place to live in a specialist home, and like so many children in state care all over the world, found herself lost in an uncaring system. She began looking for a path out.

It was then that she met a much older man who lived nearby. He began to groom her, offering various inducements. It seemed to Rada like the way to go, but he was leading her on the wrong path. She spent more and more time with him. After repeatedly escaping to visit this man’s house, Rada was moved to a more secure place far away from Sofia. But the man was able to track her down, and she went to live with him and his two sons. Rada initially thought she was in love. He paid for her food, her cigarettes and her health care.

But he was a drunk who routinely used her. Eventually, she could stand it no longer. Rada left to live with another man: a drug dealer. This was even worse. With limited options, Rada returned to the first man. At least she had money from him.

Rada’s former foster mother remained in touch, and after learning about the House of Opportunity from a fellow foster mum, contacted Rada to tell her about the programme. Rada was able to join the House of Opportunity in January this year. She is very confused and has mixed feelings about her time with the old man.

It’s common for those who have been exploited the way Rada was to be unable to fully recognise what was going on and to see their exploiters for who they are. It’s going to be a difficult path forward for Rada. She needs to come to grips with what has happened, or she will be prone to making more harmful choices. She also needs a sense of hope for the future – to know that she can make positive changes and not live in the shadow of what she’s been through.  The House of Opportunity team will be there to help her.

One of Rada’s first tasks will be to rebuild bridges to the good things in her past. Rada had been studying design at school and has a talent for drawing. However, she got into many a conflict with her teachers and stopped attending classes in the last year of her education. She says she is ashamed of how she behaved then. The House of Opportunity team is working to see if she can return to the same school to finish her exams. Rada’s foster mum still keeps in touch, and cares very much about her.

Rada has been lost a long while. She is still unsure about where she has been, but with the help of the team at the House of Opportunity, she can see a clear path ahead. Time to make the right turn.

*Name changed