Writing His First Words
How Stevenson learned the alphabet.
June 21, 2012 - Haiti
Stevenson is a 7-year-old boy who came to live at the NPH Haiti, Fr. Wasson Angels of Light (FWAL) St. Louis home in July 2010. Stevenson’s five brothers live with their father in City Soleil, which is one of the worst slums in the capital of Port-au-Prince. His mother died in 2006, and then after the January 12th 2010 earthquake, it was especially difficult for Stevenson’s father to take care of all the children so he asked FWAL to take in Stevenson due to his special needs.
Stevenson is diagnosed with ocular muscle atrophy. It is a condition where his eye muscles cannot move his eye around and his pupils have difficultly dilating. As a result, he can hardly see. When he arrived at the FWAL home, Stevenson first attended the onsite primary school, but it soon became very clear that this was not the best place for him to learn. He needed special education with a focus on learning with a visual disability. Stevenson now attends a blind and visually impaired school in Port-au-Prince and is in his second year of pre-school. The school fees are $150 per year and $10 monthly.
Stevenson learning letters.
The general educational system in Haiti is focused on classical learning by repetition. Most classrooms have a high student to teacher ratio, and it is no different in the special need schools. Although the student class size is smaller at Stevenson’s school, there is hardly time for the teachers to give a lot of individual attention.
At the FWAL St. Louis home, Stevenson tends to play very close to the clinic because of the proximity to someone being able to help him and surely because Miss Bridget works there. Miss Bridget is FWAL’s volunteer nurse from the US who has been with us for over one year. Stevenson and Miss Bridget have a special relationship. Not only because she brings in sweets very often, but because she is kind, gentle, fun, serious, and dependable all at the same time!
After Stevenson entered the visually impaired school and there was hardly any improvement in his reading abilities, Miss Bridget decided that she would make it her special task to teach Stevenson his alphabet. Every afternoon when he returned from school, they would sit down and learn two new letters. Miss Bridget would write them down very large on a big piece of paper and go over and over the two letters, until Stevenson knew them.
You would imagine that any child would be exhausted after a long day, but not Stevenson. He was so eager to learn. He would clap his hands and jump for joy while calling her name and telling her that he was ready for the next set of letters. In no time, Stevenson knew a lot of letters, and each time he learned more letters he would be able to write more words.
What a great gift, to give and receive, with Stevenson and Miss Bridget putting love into action. First, by teaching how to recognize, understand and copy. Second, by studying and learning his alphabet. At the end of the lesson, Stevenson wanted to write his first word, BRIDGET.