The girls dorm is one of the oldest building's on the property. It was a small building and more rooms were added on over the years. It is nice, but definitely had that “bad renovation” feel to it. It never was really a cohesive house. After the hospice was moved into a new building, it became the volunteer house. With only a few rooms, volunteers were forced to live and breathe together –not always a good thing.
When I decided to make Wat Opot my home, I used some left over grant money to renovate the screened-in porch into 2 bedrooms so I could have a bit of privacy. Once the volunteer dorm was built in 2011, our girls moved into the building. Six teenage girls moved in together with 9 more ranging in age from 2 to 12 yrs. The mis-mached house was quickly turned into 2 separate sides (a.k.a. war zone - you know how teen girls can be!) and a door that linked the two sides of the house was shut; never to open. As the rift grew and the little girls started to take sides, something had to change. The girls need more guidance than each other and the little ones certainly were not learning good communication or conflict resolution skills from their teen role models.
Because this is now my home and the children are in effect ‘my kids’ it was time I started acting like a parent and not a volunteer. But before I could even fathom moving back into that dorm, some major changes were in order. Wat Opot was blessed with large donations coming in over the past few months, so we have money to renovate some buildings that have been in need. My vision for the girls dorm was to make the building more open to bring together the quarreling parties. Basically I told the teen girls that they didn’t have to love each other but they did have to live together. I certainly remember my ‘hateful’ teen-years and the loveless relationship with my own sister - which is thankfully amended - funny how age and maturity can do that to you! In the girls dorm, the adage “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all” was to be applied immediately.
First on the renovation list was to add on a long enclosed porch with the current small windows made into doors so the bedrooms would open out onto the porch.
Former toilets (as demonstrated by two of the girls - who would be appalled to know this photo is on the internet!) were filled in to make room for 4 new toilets. Two on the end and 2 in the middle. (during and after shots).
Then the construction moved inside. The infamous ‘closed door’ was removed and the doorway widened to combine the two rooms (to be used for a living/play room and a kitchen).
Seven of the little girls used to share one small room. That side of the house had a porch that was enclosed last year and by closing in the outside doorway and opening up the wall between the two rooms the little girls now have a large very PINK room.
The building had 2 inside bathrooms which were removed and turned into another bedroom.
I moved back into my former bedroom a few weeks ago. Luckily I have my live-in nanny training to keep me sane. To ensure I have some form of privacy, I have brought back rules such as “If my door is closed do not knock, do not talk to me, do not even look at it – unless you are bleeding”. I must say, it was the easiest move I have ever made. I remember when it took a large U-Haul and strong friends to move all my belongings, now it's 2 cart fulls and a couple of kids!
My new presence in the girls dorm is starting to wear off a little. I don’t have little girls giggling outside my bathroom door EVERY time enter; now it's EVERY OTHER time. The first time I walked out of my room in my robe to take a shower, Rortana screamed “Melinda MUY TUK! And they all came running to see the exhibition. I heard whispering outside the door and when the first bucket of water splashed loudly as I poured it on my head they squealed with joy. I figured I was again a bit more human in their eyes; as they watch (or hear) me do normal things.
I’m getting into a routine and have started reading the girls a story before bed. It feels completely normal and comfortable in the girl’s dorm, so obviously it was meant to be; plus it’s a lot closer to everything here then in the volunteer dorm (which is on the far end of the property) and in my current forgetful state, I was putting in a couple of miles walking back and forth.
The one thing the girls miss though, is sleeping in the Creative Learning Center every night during the renovation...maybe we'll have to do it again one night for old times sake.