Once you become a special needs mom, nothing is ever the same. No matter the unique challenges your child faces, the mere fact that he or she must endure and persevere through difficulties that typical kids will never know, creates a very different kind of momma. I must admit, I have come to love the sisterhood this provides with other special needs moms all over the world. I have facebook friends in lots of countries, and feel a deep and sincere friendship with women all over the US whom I’ve never met. We are a tribe all our own. We “get” each other.
Never was I more in love with special needs moms whom I did not know, than on a recent trip to Haiti. I visited Footprints of the Son, a ministry devoted to education and inclusion of special needs children in a remote village of Northeastern Haiti. My purpose was to share a word of encouragement with the families, and learn more about the Ministry and Vision. God’s purpose, it turns out, was to enlarge my heart and deposit a deep and endless love for the families and students that I met. He ignited a firey passion for a people and part of the world I was previously oblivious to.
The most interesting part of the special needs parent experience addressed by Footprints of the Son involves, strangely, school uniforms. Here’s why: First, in Haiti school isn’t free. Even if it’s “free” school, you pay for required uniforms. The cost of a uniform alone prevents many families from sending their children to school. Whether or not your children wear uniforms is actually a social status classification in that country. Second, schools in Haiti are not equipped to accommodate any type of special need. Whether physical or intellectual, a child who isn’t the same as everyone else is not able to attend school. Therefore, not only does the family suffer the social stigma related to disability (most people in Haiti believe that children born disabled are cursed) but the added social degradation of no uniform.
Not only does Footprints of the Son accommodate all children, with every type of physical, intellectual or behavioral challenge, but each child receives free uniforms! The value of which I understood immediately as we began our home visitations. Every student I encountered after school was naked! You see, that one uniform is so precious, there is to be no risk taken of tearing or burning. I guess that isn’t a danger here stateside, but the students live in mud huts, with an open flame for cooking, and all sorts of sticks and stones to encounter as they go about their daily routines. With no plumbing and soap costly, even daily dirt and soot are to be avoided. Not to mention keeping it away from the wild goats (that’s a different story for a different post)!
One morning a girl came to school after being absent the day before. When asked why she was absent, the girl replied “my mom didn’t have any money”. The teacher didn’t understand, because school (including lunch) is free. So the girl explained her mom didn’t have money to buy a piece of coal, to heat and put in the iron, so she could press the uniform to make it look nice for school. The uniform is treated as royalty! It is respected and honored, and the parents know fully the value that it brings to their lives and homes.
I know this isn’t my typical post, but I am launching a uniform drive for Footprints of the Son in honor of my 50th birthday! I wanted to do something special for the families that I met, and i wanted to share with you the opportunity to make a difference for another special needs mom. To provide her perhaps something we take for granted here. Our struggles are real, but they aren’t compounded by no water, no electricity and no prospect of education for our child. I have received so much from giving to these families, I thought you may want to also experience the blessing that comes with blessing other special needs families.
To provide a full uniform set (2 polos, one pair of bottoms (two pair for kids in the sensory classroom) a Friday t-shirt and girls get hair ribbons) please click below to link directly to the Footprints donation page
Ecc 11:2 Don’t hoard your goods; spread them around. Be a blessing to others. This could be your last night.
Gal 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Luke 6:28 Give and it shall be given unto you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.