By: Kylee Tsuru
The Tree of Life Children’s Village is filled with children’s stories of loss and abuse, tragedy and darkness. But even more so, it is brimming with transformation, growth, triumph and redemption.
Alice, Joseph, Faith and Stanley are four of these children in Family Legacy’s full-time care who are on a journey toward complete healing. This year, they were also the recipients of the Child of the Year and Most Improved Child awards.
Together they experienced the traumatic death of parents, abandonment, abuse and the sting of rejection. As afflictions brought about these children’s darkest days, God intervened and through various circumstances, led each child to Family Legacy where they now live full-time. The transition into living at the Tree of Life can be a difficult one. Children come from relying on street smarts to survive to much-needed structure and discipline. So when they begin to leave old habits behind and strive to become the best they can be, they are greatly celebrated.
The staff at the Tree of Life – house mothers, teachers, counselors, discipleship leaders and social service workers – take note of how far children come themselves and how they treat others. Every year, staff members can nominate children for two awards: Child of the Year and Most Improved Child.
This year, Joseph and Alice were awarded Child of the Year while Faith and Stanley were given the award for Most Improved Child.
The Child of the Year award is given to a child who has shown exemplary leadership and responsibility consistently through the year. They set examples for other children at the Tree of Life as they exemplify obedience, diligence and maturity. The Most Improved Child award is given to a child who has improved behaviorally, academically and socially. These children have worked incredibly hard to better themselves and have grown leaps and bounds as a result.
When their names were called at the award ceremony in front of the entire Tree of Life staff and nearly 700 child residents, the audience erupted in cheers of joy for their peers. After the ceremony, the children were taken out to lunch as a reward and received gifts, like lotion and perfume for the girls and sports gear for the boys. These awards are not only given to recognize those hard working children and reward them for their progress. They are to encourage other children in the village to strive to work hard and become better themselves.
“When they called my name, my heart bumped out of my chest!” Alice said. “I was so excited! Since then, several smaller kids have come up to me saying, ‘I want to be like you.’ Some kids ask me what my secret is. I just tell them that it is important to respect teachers, mothers and each other, to be obedient and work hard.”
For Faith, she attributes her growth to the love of her house mother.
“Mommy Sama has helped me change,” Faith said. “She tells me to make the right choices. I used to be bad, but now I have stopped because of how Mommy sits me down and talks to be about my behavior. When we got lunch as a reward, I saved my drink and some chicken for her.”