Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Coincidence in timing? I think not. . .

Just after I learned that a speech therapist, a physical therapist, and a nurse would be coming to work with us on the Communication Systems project, I was contacted by a mom in San Pedro (where the boys' house is located) asking me to work with her daughter Melany.  She was ten years old and had been in the preschool class at the local public school for 6 years.  This year the principal had decided that she was too old to attend.  Could I help?

While our Outreach Center is not ready to open, the guys are all gone from their house on Saturday mornings, so we are meeting there each week to work on basic number and reading skills.  After the first week, her mom asked if her friend's son could come.  He, too, has a developmental disability, and while only 8, had also been told he could not continue in the local public school.

So, each Saturday Bryan and Melanie meet me at ten o'clock for two hours of school, and appear to love it.  They both come with their older sisters (the mom's work at a local home "factory" weaving baskets) and are learning basic concepts such as shapes as colors, to read their names, and recognize numbers to 10.  How I wish it would be possible to work with them daily, but the time for that is "not yet."

The psychologist, Gloria, and the head social worker
for the community formally greeting the team
to thank them for coming.
About the same time, I received a call from the psychologist who works for the mayor's office in a nearby town.  They had some children with special needs there, and heard I could help.  Would I?  As much as my mind wanted to resist, my heart wouldn't let me, and I promised to bring the team from Illinois who were coming to work on communication with me to see their students.  One time.  Yep, only once.

The "Awesome Threesome" whose visit encouraged me
to say "yes" when asked to help in this community.
Well, of course, it has grown into more than once.  The children captured my heart immediately.  All attend the local public school, and all basically are ignored in their classrooms.  From what I understand, the principal of this school is a caring woman, but they have no idea how to teach children with developmental disabilities.  I'm not sure they even believe they CAN learn, but at least these children are treated kindly at school, which I can't say about most places.

Eli and Dani working with José Raul
But God has not left me alone to deal with this.  Through my connection with the psychologist, I now have a student who is doing her field work in psychology working with me.  Eli is amazing.  She works in the men's and women's homes, as well as helping at the center in Santa Lucia each Thursday afternoon.  Juli, from our women's home, would like to study occupational therapy in the future, and is happy to come with to work with the kids each week.  Finally Dani, who is a companion-caregiver for our men, donates one of his days off to come and volunteer with this project.  He's trained as a preschool teacher, but wants to learn better ways to teach kids with special needs.

Juli helping Heyner use a communication device.
We had been told he was unable to speak.
We have learned he was just afraid to,
because he does not pronounce words well and was picked on.
So, between the two centers, we are serving about ten families and their special children.  I'm not sure that the academics we work on are why God has brought us here.  I believe the impact we are making is in demonstrating to the families and kids that the children have value, and that they are important to the God who created them.  He has a plan and a purpose for their lives.  They are not accidents of nature.

Our "theme song" is "God has seen your need and brought us to you.  You matter.  He cares."

The first time I worked with Heyner, he put his head down on the table
and refused to look at me.  Here he is proudly displaying the square he had colored
as part of my evaluation. (Look at that smile!)
In 40+ years of teaching, I've never seen a child color the square as a rainbow.
 I can't wait to see the artist in him emerge.
Isn't that what it means to love one another?

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