This year will mark the fourth year that students from Ryerson University in Canada have assisted at Every Child Counts School. This project is beneficial to both the University and the school since the Ryerson students gain valuable experience and the children and teachers at ECC benefit from some excellent assistance.
This year eleven students are assisting at the school from April 30 to May 31, with two of them staying on until June 2. Normally the students are selected from third and fourth year placements at the university but this year there are some second-year students also. The students are from the departments of early childhood studies, sociology and social work and are overseen by their Professor Jean Golden.
The students stated that they came with no expectations but they are loving it. They are enjoying working with the children and also learning about Bahamian culture.
“This year students are receiving a more in-depth introduction to Bahamian culture through meetings with various persons and entities in the community rather than just, as in other years, gleaning what they can from social interactions. This year they have enjoyed talks from persons from the Friends of the Environment, Sarrone Kennedy of The Bahamas Red Cross, Marsden Lawley and Lynn Major of ECC, Pastor Baillou and from visits to the Haitian communities of the Peas and the Mud,” explained Professor Golden.
Students have been working in the classrooms in the mornings, assisting with the Special Olympics program during the lunch hour and working on various projects during the afternoon which include developing a third newsletter on types of disabilities to be distributed throughout the community. One of their goals is to introduce activities the children are interested in and organize a play date for the last week of their visit in which activities and games will allow the children to not only practice balance, etc., but also apply social skills.
Each of the students, with some help from their mentor, Professor Golden, defined an area in which they are particularly gifted or suited and each is working with the children in their area of choice. For Andrew Sigmaringam, this entails work in the art room designing tables and masks.
“This is a collective activity in which everyone contributes and it is nice to see everyone working together,” he stated.
Andrew is hearing impaired and has been giving lessons in ASL (American Sign Language) to the hearing impaired at the school. He has been teaching them numbers, colours and letters and engaging them in conversation. In the afternoons he organizes dance classes to help the children with their mobility issues. He has also been rotating through the vocational centre and organized a workshop on hearing impairment.
Every student was eager to share what they are specifically working on with the children. Saira Choudhary is helping the children with their approach to anti-bullying. She approaches this with the youngest children by getting them to think about gentle and loving words and acts of kindness. Their ideas she is compiling into a book. With the older children she is focusing on fruits of the spirit.
Erica Benjamin gets the children to work out their problems in role-play. Adrienne Bess is helping the children with their English and literacy skills and gives one-on-one help with reading; she encourages them to talk about their lives and what they are going through. Phoebe Heng is working in the office trying to help the children apply for scholarships which will assist in paying for their education at the school. She is also helping in a census for the government providing information on each of the 110 students at the school and also suggesting equipment which is needed for some of the students.
Heerthana Perinban has a farming project going in which the students grow vegetables and fruits and are learning about composting and recycling. “The physical labour and exercise involved helps with their mobility and motor skills since some of the students are very stiff,” he explained.
Sarah Martin has written to the Ministry of Agriculture for their assistance and is working on a project which will hopefully enable the school to sell breadfruit trees
Sarah Lindsay assists with the tuck shop helping the students prepare snacks and sandwiches each day and meals such as chicken fettuccine and pasta salad twice a week. “This enables them to practice life skills for independent living and also teaches them about hygiene, sanitation and good nutrition” she says.
Anthony Clark has responsibilities in two areas. In the mornings he has been leading a spirituality character development class. This includes Bible study and meditations at which he also plays his guitar but he has now moved on to helping in the training centre. In the afternoons he helps a group of older students with carpentry skills.
The students ask the teachers what repairs need doing in their classroom and then they go about effecting basic maintenance and repairs which has been instrumental in saving the school some money. Many of the Ryerson students are providing sexual education classes for girls and boys separately. One of the students noted that she spends much time listening to children who need to be able to talk to someone about their very traumatic experiences.
All of the students were very enthusiastic about their work with the children at ECC and stated that they had enjoyed figuring out the needs of the children and where they themselves could fit in. One of the students stated that her favourite part had been talking to the students and building really strong connections while another stated that she had enjoyed watching the interactions between students, stating, “There is a strong sense of bonding here, all the students are very loving and I have been very touched to see how they all look out for each other.”
Another young lady became very emotional when talking about the lack of compassion and understanding she had experienced from some members of the community towards the challenges of these students.
“We have been very moved by listening to the ECC students tell their stories about how their lives have really improved since attending this school and we have been blessed to witness the flourishing of the students who were once rejected in previous schools,” stated the Ryerson students.
They summed up their whole experience at Every Child Counts by saying that; “This experience has given us all an opportunity to grow and the ECC community has taught us a lot more than we could offer them.”