Our Amigos de Jesus school psychologist, affectionately known as "Psico Elizabeth," is an integral member of the Amigos de Jesus staff and family. She is instrumental in helping our children process past trauma and current emotional and behavioral issues so that they can recover and continue to become even stronger and more resilient. Psico Elizabeth's soft-spoken and gentle manner and the inordinate care and concern she shows for our children make her truly special.
Where are you from originally?
Tegucigalpa, Honduras (the capital city)
How long have you been at Amigos de Jesus?
Since March of 2015
How did you hear about Amigos de Jesus?
There was an advertisement in the paper stating that Amigos was looking to hire a psychologist. It was the first time I had heard of Amigos de Jesus.
Why were you interested in working at Amigos de Jesus?
From the ad I could tell only that Amigos was a non-governmental organization. Once I realized that it was an organization that worked with children, I knew that I wanted to work here. The majority of my work experience has been with children, and I really enjoy working with them.
Where did you go to school and with what degree did you graduate?
I attended La Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Honduras in Tegucigalpa. I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. (In Honduras if you earn a Bachelor’s degree, you earn the title of “Licenciado”—one who is licensed).
As the psychologist for the Amigos de Jesus Bilingual School, what are your responsibilities? What is your role?
I evaluate the children upon their entering school to see in which classroom they should be placed based on their intellectual ability. I also evaluate where the children are emotionally. Almost all the kids need at least some help in this area, but I work with those who need it most.
I also have had the opportunity to meet and talk with the teachers regularly about how to help the children improve academically and emotionally, because oftentimes they are related. I meet individually with children when they are having a difficult day. I teach them techniques to use when they are angry or sad. If they do not want to talk right away, I help them seek spaces to calm down, be alone, and reflect until they are ready to talk.
I also help teach Valores (religious education) to some of the classes. Sometimes the kids get frustrated in class when they don’t understand the material. At times everything is emotional—when we don’t feel well, we can’t work well. Many of the kids struggle with low self-esteem. When we are conscious of who we are and what we are capable of, we get frustrated less easily. Even when we fail, we keep going.
Can you describe a typical day at school?
When I first started, that would have been complicated! But now it is easier to describe and more regular. The first hour of my day is spent preparing for Valores class. Then I spend some time gathering information from self-esteem, self-knowledge, and self-care manuals to have it ready for when I’m going to work individually with a particular child. I also sometimes research Attention Deficit Disorder and speech and language therapy because we have a number of children who struggle with ADD and language difficulties. The bulk of my day is then spent in the classrooms or meeting with individual children. I do not like to take them out of class for long periods of time if I can avoid it because I don’t like for them to miss learning time, so I’ve worked to create spaces for them within the classrooms. Sometimes they can go to this space to think about how they can improve their day without leaving class. My day may also include conferences with Profe Osman (the school principal) and the teachers about placement—which students will pass on to the next grade, which need to be placed in a different classroom, etc.
What is the biggest challenge of your job?
There are many, but one of them is maintaining an equal relationship with all of the teachers and being available to all of them.
What is your favorite thing about your job?
When the kids come to me and give me a hug and say, “Psico, you know I love you.”
Do you have a favorite story about one of the kids?
The children have been through some very difficult things, and I’ve heard some very difficult things. I like it when a child who has said “no one loves me here” later writes a letter talking about how there are people here who do love him/her. The child seems happier and calmer, and doesn’t reject hugs whereas before they wouldn’t have been able to accept them. I also like it when the children feel more secure at Amigos and they tell me “I’m going to my house” when it’s time to go home at the end of the day. They say it with such confidence and security.
What do you hope for the future of the school? What would you like to see in the future?
I would like to see the school grow and have more students. The students say they want to go to school here until high school, so…I would like to see the school have many different groups: various sports teams, groups learning to play different musical instruments, etc., because we have a lot of talent here. Also, the kids would be busier and they would have something to do that they enjoy. It would help them channel their energies and express repressed emotions, and therefore help them become more emotionally stable. I think this would help the children a lot.