Cut to the Bone

by | Jan 29, 2019 | Ukraine

This week, I would like to share a story with you that keeps echoing in my mind about the children at the First Step Centre in Odessa, Ukraine. It was originally written by our former field coordinator there and is still relevant today.

We call them “Cutters” and when they come through the doors of First Step Centre, they have their sleeves rolled down so you can’t see the open wounds up and down their arms. What unimaginable pain must a child feel when they can take a razor, a knife, or a dirty piece of glass and slice into their own body?   

They tell us that when their anger turns to despair, they must relieve the tension in some way, and seeing their own blood flow eases that anguish. Some of these children, who have been horribly abused, tell us that they can hear the voices of their abusers telling them that they are worthless, they have NO HOPE, and they must cut themselves. In most cases they are not trying to kill themselves—just the “hurting” will ease the pain of living. 

Elizabeth, our nurse, and her husband Adrian, work with the children at First Step Centre, and spend many hours searching the streets for those who are in need of food and medical care. Elizabeth’s soft voice of reassurance provides them with a loving touch as she cleans and checks their wounds and of course they know that they are loved “unconditionally” by our First Step staff. No condemnation there. 

In some cases, as these children find other ways to cope with the stress they feel on a daily basis, they will often stop cutting themselves. For others, when they are under the influence of glue or alcohol, they sit around in a circle performing this ritual, cutting themselves as a group. Many of these cuts are superficial and heal quickly, but several weeks ago Slavic’s wound was laid wide open, cut to the bone, and horribly infected. It was going to take weeks to clear up! 

What is World Hope doing to help these kids? What is the answer for such self-destructive behaviour? We need to keep LOVING these children, CHERISHING the moments that we have with them, even if it is just for a few hours every day, HUGGING them, TELLING them over and over that they have VALUE. THAT is what our World Hope staffers are doing here in Odessa, Ukraine. 

This post was originally written by Carole Allison, former Ukraine Field Coordinator, along with her husband Kerry

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