Oasis of Hope for Children with Special Needs-Miss Holly Jarret
My name is Holly and I am from Vancouver, Canada. Back in Vancouver, I was working as an Aboriginal Supported Child Development Worker. My second job was as a Program Assistant for a company working with individuals who are Autistic and/or have challenging behaviour.
I really enjoy my work and have a passion for working with children and families. I was introduced to the Ruben Centre by a friend from Australia. After hearing about it, I wanted to see the Centre first hand and witness the influence and support it is having on the Mukuru Community. When I arrived one of the first things that struck me was the big smiles lighting up the children's faces. I remember members of the "Ruben family" and community talking of the Centre being "an oasis of hope".The more time I've spent here, the deeper is my understanding of the truth of this profound statement and slogan. There are different programs at the Ruben Centre - some of them include: the Medical Clinic, Vocational Training Program, FM Radio Station and Primary school. They continue to reach out, empower, and give the community a sense of hope.
Most of my time at Ruben has been centred around the special needs unit. This program not only benefits the students but the parents as well. Although it's fading there still remains a cultural belief that special needs comes from a curse. This means that individuals are being punished for past mistakes. A support group has been set in place once a week for parents. One of the goals of the special program is to build awareness in the community. I have been working alongside the teachers to help plan and implement lessons, programs and activities. The unit is growing rapidly and at present has forty four children. Thirty six are in the unit on a regular basis with 6 integrated in the main stream class. There are currently 2 teachers, 3 caregivers and a volunteer teacher supporting the children. One of the most inspiring things for me is the children's eagerness to learn. The youngest is around 3 years and the oldest 16 years. They really enjoy their time in the two rooms that make up this special unit. It offers a safe haven for many from life in the slums.
My hope is that the Ruben Community will continue to grow, empower and bring light to the Mukuru community.