My duty as a privileged teacher

Posted on March 31, 2010. Filed under: cultural, educational, personal, reflection |

I have been struggling with a tension lately that has to do with teaching and learning.  I want to know if I am obligated as a privileged teacher of Canada to help over seas.  Let me tell you the story…

It started about a month ago when my parents got back from Uganda.  They went over with their church to help build 2 classrooms for the non profit organization of Watoto.  Watoto’s mission is to take orphaned children off the streets, give them a solid home and family, and give them the best possible education.  Watoto’s desire is to not just give these children an “ok” life, but an EXCELLENT life.  Their dream is that these children will grow up to be the change their country needs.  With a great education they can become politicians, lawyers, doctors, teachers, etc. that will work for change in Africa.  They will become the influential members of society that have a heart for the poor and needy.  It is an excellent organization that is doing great things for Uganda.

While my parents were there, they visited Baby Watoto.  This is the centre for babies ages 0-2.  These babies are often underweight and they are in need of immediate medical attention.  On their website, it says “they have been found in pit latrines (toilets), garbage dumps, under trees and bushes, buckets of water, and on doorsteps.”  My tension is not with Baby Watoto and the circumstances these children are coming from because they are getting excellent care.  My tension is because of the story of a little boy named Kevin.

Baby Watoto Building

Kevin is over 2 years old but is still at Baby Watoto because he is blind, deaf and has autistic tendencies.  My dad actually held Kevin for almost the whole day their group was visiting Baby Watoto.  He said that Kevin would just hold onto him and not want to let go.  When Kevin would walk around the Watoto building, he would run into walls and doors. Kevin’s situation  touched my dad in a special way, and there were many tears shed.

(My dad and mom are in the background.  Dad is holding Kevin)

The problem with Kevin’s situation is that because of his special needs, and his circumstance, he will most likely never learn to effectively communicate with others.  His house mothers or nanny’s don’t have the proper education to know how to teach him, and Baby Watoto has 75 other babies that they also need to care for.  My struggle is that I just read Helen Keller’s biography- The Story of My Life.  She lived in the early 1900’s yet mastered language and went on to college!  Her book was one of the most eloquent I have ever read!  She was so blessed to have such a great opportunity, but it was because her family was very influential.  It was actually Alexander Graham Bell who directed her to Miss Sullivan, the teacher who taught Helen how to read, write, speak and communicate!

I am taking a Special Needs class right now and I feel like I know a little bit of information on how to teach children with special needs, and Helen Keller’s book gave me a lot of insight into education for the deaf and blind.  So, I decided to email Baby Watoto and ask them if I could even just email the house nanny’s and give them some ideas.  This is the email I got back from them:

Hi Danielle,
Thanks so much for your email. Yes – the baby with the disabilities you describe is Kevin.  He is such a sweet little boy and we really love him out here.

As you correctly assumed, we struggle to communicate with him on occasions although he is very good at letting us know when he is unhappy or mad about something!!
One of the main problems we have with communicating with special needs children is that we have multiple careers for them.  For anything to be effective it really needs to be kept consistent and regular with all careers which is something we can not guarantee.  He is coming up three and has strong autistic tendencies on top of his physical disabilities.  This makes teaching him things even more tricky. His concentration level is non existent.
So – having said that, any help we can get is always great.
Have you considered coming and volunteering? Have a look on our website to see if this is a possibility?
Otherwise let me know how you think you would be able to contribute?
Thanks again for your email and I look forward to hearing back from you.
God Bless.

Now for my tension: I know I am not extremely qualified to teach people how to educate deaf and blind students, but I do know something.  I love this little boy already, and I don’t even know him.  I really want him to learn how to communicate!  I believe that in some ways, it is my obligation as a privileged educator here in Canada to go over there and help them out!  I want to go, but I don’t have the money to buy a flight over there.  How can I get support for this situation?  What are my options? Or your options?

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5 Responses to “My duty as a privileged teacher”

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Wow, thats really interesting story. I think whatever you do if its just giving them pointers about different ways to help or actually go and help there. You are doing a great thing! I have also wondered about even taking a summer off and going somewhere for a couple months to help out how ever I could. I think it would be a great thing to do and an amazing expereince.

This is such a good struggle for you danielle. As skilled Canadians who don’t know what it’s like to suffer – we can always lend a hand anytime.
I’m trying to discern if you are struggling with going over there or struggling with how God will take care of you and your husband if you go?
You need to know that if God has laid it on your heart to meet a need – it be best to pursue this. And if it’s from God (which i think it probably is in some way) He will take care of you. Money? Who cares – your parents will send you 🙂 Finances over there? God will take care of it.
Sometimes God just asks us to do things even though we don’t have a clue why or how and He is just saying ‘trust me’.

I think this is awesome Danielle. I think you have already done something but thinking about possibly going overe there as well, as trying to help give them some pointers on how to help little Kevin communicate. I wish you luck with whatever you decide too do. I can’t imagine how sad it would be too see these children with these disabilities. I think it would be an amazing experience!

Right now I am in the process of still talking about the situation and sharing with people. I talked to my special needs prof this week and she suggested getting in contact with a school in B.C. They teach people how to teach deaf and blind students, and she thought they might need to do a practicum and maybe one of them could go. This seems like a good idea to me, especially because they are way more qualified and could help more than myself.

Hi! I am so pleased to find you blog post… Watoto and Kevin have been on my heart since Dec 2009 when I visited…it really broke my heart that he had no way of communicating and no language developed. I would love to know how he is doing now! Were you able to get anyone to intervene in any way? Since my visit, I have been studying audiology in South Africa and am currently in my final year of my degree- I wish I had know everything that I know now, when I was in Uganda, so that I could of made an attempt at introducing him to a way of communicating! I would love to hear back from you and find out if Kevin has gotten any help that you know of?


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