A Student’s Journey from Chaos to Calm

Ella’s Story

Ella is an example of the depth of trauma that is seen daily at Heart House. Every day, when she arrived after school, she was despondent and disengaged, hungry and afraid. When staff tried to connect with her, she would run to a corner of the room and not speak. But when she started one-on-one play therapy twice a week, she slowly opened up. Toys were her outlet, and she would tell stories through her favorite doll. The doll had lost her dad, home and all she knew. Moving to the States was scary and extremely difficult.

Though her family loves her very much, the big city, with its loud cars, new school, unfamiliar faces and strange sounds, was daunting. Ella’s stories have been vivid, because they are true. Through play therapy at Heart House, Ella has found a voice to share her story.


A Student’s Journey from Chaos to Calm

Bawi Dawt Par’s Story

Bawi Dawt Par is a 9 year old from Burma who has been a faithful attender of Heart House over the past few years. Bawi Par is very outgoing and very talkative. Because of her energetic personality, all of her emotions would constantly come erupting out of her. Whether happy or sad, she would constantly blurt out what she felt and shyed away from trying new things. In Summer 2016, Heart House began implementing a social/emotional curriculum called Mind Up, that teaches the students how to self regulate based on neuroscience. Bawi Par quickly became incredibly interested in her brain and learning new ways to regulate her own emotions. At camp, Bawi Par was presented with an opportunity to set out on the lake in a canoe with her fellow teammates. The experience was new and Bawi Par was very afraid.

As her emotions of fear started bubbling up, she was able to recognize her need to calm her body. She stood on the shore, slowing down her breath and practiced the deep belly breathing she had learned in Heart House. After a few brief moments of breathing, Bawi Par was able to calmly climb into the canoe and enjoyed the rest of the day on the lake. The skills she is learning at Heart House are skills that she can take with her for the rest of her life making a lasting impact.

A Student’s Journey from Chaos to Calm

Lucia Awi’s Story

Lucia is an 8-year-old refugee from Malaysia with a loving spirit. Her family was originally from Burma and after years of forms and waiting, came to America to give Lucia the safety, education and opportunity that she never would have had in Malaysia. At Heart House you’d typically find Lucia taking care of her little sister, playing with all the kids, and displaying a joyful attitude towards others. However, Lucia’s joyous spirit would quickly sadden when she would work on her reading homework. Lucia is a 1st grade student who has struggled with reading books at her grade level. As a result, Lucia became discouraged with her reading work, and tried to avoid doing it as much as possible. Like many students who struggle in academics, Lucia was developing a fixed mind set, believing she could never be as smart as other students that were her age. Her struggle with reading changed her attitude in general; she would keep to herself and became very disruptive during instruction.

As Lucia’s behavior changed more and more, her teachers at Heart House knew they needed to do something to change her trajectory. With Social Emotional Learning the “heart of the house,” staff began using the MindUP curriculum to teach Lucia about neuroplasticity and brain. Lucia heard consistently about having a “growth mindset” and how she could exercise her brain to grow in reading. The teachers also provided Lucia with lower leveled books and 1-on-1 reading sessions. As Lucia learned more about her brain and received individual attention and encouragement in her areas of weakness, she has became more comfortable with reading and her joyous attitude is beginning to return.


Sisters’ Journey from Chaos to Calm

Irene, Esther, and Mercy

Irene, Esther, and Mercy are sisters who have attended Heart House for many years. The sisters are refugees living in Vickery Meadow after moving here from Malaysia years ago. Although originally from Burma, their family was forced to flee to Malaysia because of the oppression and persecution of their people. Their family then moved to America in search of safety, education and opportunity. As the girls adjusted to the new culture of America, they held onto their love for K-Pop, a Korean Pop Music culture. Irene, the youngest out of the three, heard about the Korean Festival held in Carrolton from her site leader and really wanted to go. She told her sisters and they all became determined to make it happen. On Saturday morning, the girls called into Heart House asking for staff to taken them to see their favorite singers and the staff couldn’t say no.

The girls had a blast at K-Festival, bonding with their Heart House leader over a huge part of their culture! There was so much for them to see and try as it was a new experience. Irene really loved trying out the Korean radish side dish at the noodle shop, while Esther and Mercy enjoyed checking out the different Korean pop music. To top off the day, the girls got to attend their very first concert, an opportunity they never could have had back in Burma. They were free to enjoy music and festival without fear or trepidation.

This Love & Lead opportunity gave the girls the chance to step outside of their comfort zone and experience something entirely new. It gave them the chance to see and appreciate another culture and to find the beauty in diversity. Now, after their Love & Lead, the girls desire to go back in order to share their experience with other friends at Heart House so everyone can experience the beauty of the Korean culture with them.