Childhood, Children with disabilities, Courage, Inspirational, Joyful Moments, Kindness, The Gift of Mobility

Inspired to Act

What makes a person decide to step up and help someone far away?

Last week, I promised to tell you about my son-in-law’s recent experience.

Tim is based on the west coast and manages big projects in the corporate world. A year ago, Tim had a skiing accident that injured his knee and required major surgery. It left him struggling to get around.  Then something else happened.

The story and photos Tim shared with our family are so moving that I asked him to tell you the story – his story –  directly.

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A GIFT OF MOBILITY

by Tim McCarthy

Recovering from a broken knee and the installation of three pins was not fun. 

Then my uncle Jack McCarthy told me about CanUgan, a Canadian-based charity he supports. 

Blog Photo - CanUgan - Jack with Mayor & Dep Mayor of Kasese
Mayor
Kabbyanga Baluku Godfrey Kime, with   Jack McCarthy &
Deputy Mayor
Baluku Peter

Its mission is to provide medical assistance technologies to people with disabilities in the Kasese District of Uganda. 

When I learned about the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities there and CanUgan’s focus on building local capacity, I felt compelled to support through fundraising.  Months later, my uncle asked me to come with him to Uganda to see for myself.

Blog Photo - CanUgan - Women with crutches and cane

In Uganda, Robert, a local board member in the Kasese district, told us about a 12-year old girl we would meet: Katisume Florence.

Four years prior, when she was just 8 years-old, Florence contracted fistula and lost the ability to walk.  Her parents carried her short distances around the yard.  She would also drag herself on the ground, sometimes in the mud.

What would a 12 year old who had undergone such adversity be like?  Hardened?  Broken?  Sad?  I didn’t know what to expect.

We arrived at Florence’s home early in the morning.  Word quickly spread that “mzungus” (foreign visitors) had arrived with the deputy mayor, Peter.   A crowd formed around him as he introduced us to the community and Florence. 

Blog Photo - CanUgan - Florence 1

One of Peter’s fellow board members brought a wheelchair, donated by our local partner organization,  KADUPEDI, and presented it to Florence.

She was confused at first.  Apparently she had no expectation that she’d ever receive a wheelchair even when it was 20 feet away from her.  She approached the chair hesitantly.  Peter quickly instructed her on how to pull herself up.  She nodded, gave it a moment’s consideration then pulled herself up into the seat. 

She smiled.  Peter tapped the side-bars on the tires and reminded her to use them to propel the chair forward and backward.  Her smile grew and she started rolling, picking up some decent speed before stopping about 20 feet later.

She received some instruction on turning, and she turned herself around.  She sped back towards us and went 20 feet  in the other direction before turning around again.  As she made her way back to us is when I took the picture. 

Blog Photo - Florence
Katisume Florence

At the time, I was inspired by her courage, determination and sheer joy at being able to move independently. 

It was days later, when reviewing the picture, that I noticed the terrible sores on her knees.  It was only then that I really stopped to think about how painful and miserable the last four years’ struggle must have been for this child and her family.

I was inspired and humbled. 

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Tim has a strong social conscience, but as you can tell, his experience in Kasese was profound.  He has raised $3,000 in donations for CanUgan’s 2019 operating year.  Such donations help provide individuals with items from hearing aids to wheelchairs. 

Blog Photo - CanUgan Boy in Transport device

To donate: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/canugan-disability-support/

 

 

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Childhood, Childhood Memories, Myrtle The Purple Turtle

What Makes You Different….

No child wants to be different. To be taunted for something you can’t change.

I know.

I wanted dark hair, like everyone else. Instead, during childhood, I had flaming reddish hair. “Reds” was the kindest of my nicknames.

I loved playing — boisterously — with my sisters and friends. Suddenly, I was struck with childhood epilepsy, and — over several years — would have to frequently retreat to quiet spaces. While my friends played, I read books, kept a journal and sometimes wrote little stories.

I grew to love reading and writing and — thank goodness — my family nurtured this love.  I read so well that my mother and grandmother sent me to read the Bible and newspaper to elderly patients in the local infirmary. 

It was my first “job” as a volunteer, but a weird role for a small child. I didn’t want to do it at first. I wanted to be out playing, like the other children.

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How was I to know that the very things that made me odd would also make me strong? 

That having reddish hair in childhood would strengthen my empathy towards “different” people, persisting long after my hair colour had gradually darkened on its own?

That having epilepsy — being forced to slow down and read — would nurture my love of stories and words and expand my view of the world outside our small village?

That all of it, even reading the news to elderly people, would help prepare me for rewarding careers in television, community service,  and — more recently — in publishing?

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If I could, I’d tell every child in the world:

Don’t hate the things that make you different. Love them. Because the very things that you’re teased for, even excluded for, will provide some of your greatest strengths.

I’d say:

See the teasing and strange looks as proof that you’re wonderful.

It’s painful now, I know.

It’s hard to believe now, I know. 

Try to believe it anyway.

I know.

~~

Dedicated to every child who feels different, including a very bright young girl with purple glasses whom I recently met.

#loveyourshell

Childhood, Mixed-Race Hair, Myrtle The Purple Turtle, Self-Esteem

Myrtle the Purple Turtle: Book Review

Blogger Friends: 

I was moved by this post by Erin Taylor on Facebook and wanted you to read it. I asked her permission to share it here. Erin and her family live in Southern Ontario. 

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I’m so honoured to have had the chance to review the book, “Myrtle the Purple Turtle”, by Cynthia Reyes.  As an educator, and mother of young children, I really appreciate when I find a book that speaks to important social issues that our children should be aware of and taught about appropriately.

Having children of mixed race, I want to ensure that they embrace their unique qualities and are proud of who they are and who their parents are.

Blog Photo - Layla reading Myrtle

My daughter Layla has spent many mornings shedding tears over the fact that her hair is dark and curly. She wants straight, blond hair like most of her friends. We try to explain to her that her hair is what makes her unique!

A few months ago a lady came up to me and asked about Layla’s hair. She made comments about how she feels bad for her, for having hair like “that” and how much she must hate her curly hair. I was in complete shock! Not only were her comments inappropriate, but she also said them in front of Layla. These comments were very hurtful to a young child’s developing self esteem.

“Myrtle the Purple Turtle” is a wonderful story about a turtle who is ashamed of her colour. Myrtle was being made fun of for being a purple turtle, not a green turtle. The story takes you on a journey of the feelings Myrtle goes through after being ridiculed. In the end, she has friends that help her come to the realization that she is a beautiful, unique turtle, and should not be ashamed of who she is.

Blog Photo - Layla holding Myrtle

Thank you very much, Erin.

Note to Layla from Cynthia:

Layla, my dear, you are beautiful and unique, as is your gorgeous hair. When I was your age, my hair was big and bushy and not easy to comb. When I got older, my friends envied my thick, shiny hair!  It was beautiful all along, but I didn’t know it when I was little. #loveyourshell.