Jessie MacNeil will spend six months at fam­ily-style fos­ter homes in In­dia

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY JEREMY FRASER jeremy.fraser@cb­

Syd­ney River woman quits job to spend six months in In­dia.

Vol­un­teer­ing has al­ways been im­por­tant to Jessie MacNeil and that’s one of the rea­sons she’s go­ing to In­dia later this month.

The Syd­ney River na­tive will leave on Feb. 15 and for the next six months will vol­un­teer at Sarah’s Covenant House, a com­mu­nity of fam­ily-style fos­ter homes that care for chil­dren and young adults with med­i­cal and spe­cial needs, do­ing be­hav­iour ther­apy us­ing ap­plied be­hav­iour anal­y­sis.

This will be the sec­ond time MacNeil has spent time in In­dia as a vol­un­teer. In 2012, she spent a month at the same fa­cil­ity.

“When I was there I was able to spend time and build con­nec­tions with the chil­dren,” said MacNeil. “I’ve seen re­cent pic­tures of them and they’ve grown and changed so much — I’m re­ally ex­cited to see how they pro­gressed.”

MacNeil started vol­un­teer­ing in 2009 af­ter trav­el­ling to the Do­mini­can Repub­lic on a mis­sion with a group of vol­un­teers, led by Pas­tor David Sawler of Light­house Church.

Af­ter tak­ing part in three sep­a­rate mis­sions, MacNeil be­gan rais­ing money to par­tic­i­pate in the World Race, an 11-month Chris­tian vol­un­teer mis­sion in 2012. As part of the trip, she held post­ings in In­dia, Thai­land, Nepal, Cam­bo­dia, Viet­nam, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Lithua­nia, Es­to­nia and Latvia.

MacNeil cred­its Sawler for help­ing her re­al­ize how im­por­tant it is to vol­un­teer.

“It was my first ex­pe­ri­ence do­ing mis­sion work and I knew from the first time I went, it was some­thing that I had a heart for,” said the 26-year-old.

While in In­dia, MacNeil will be work­ing to­ward be­com­ing a board-cer­ti­fied be­hav­iour an­a­lyst.

“One of the re­quire­ments in order to write my exam is to have 1,500 hours ex­pe­ri­ence, un­der some­one who is a (be­hav­iour an­a­lyst),” said MacNeil. “I am able to use my time over there as hours of ex­pe­ri­ence and I have a su­per­vi­sor in the United States, who will be skyp­ing me ev­ery week, over­see­ing what I’m do­ing.

Sarah’s Covenant House is home to more than 150 pre­vi­ously aban­doned chil­dren who have been res­cued from gov­ern­ment or­phan­ages that don’t have the abil­ity to pro­vide ad­e­quate care for their needs.

Sarah’s Covenant House is spread out over six apart­mentstyle homes that in­clude care­givers, nurs­ing staff and house par­ents.

The chil­dren re­ceive needed med­i­cal care as well as ex­pe­ri­ence love, restora­tion and emo­tional heal­ing within a fam­ily.

MacNeil will be work­ing in the ju­bilee home, where she is ex­pected to work with pre-teen girls with autism spec­trum dis­or­der, be­hav­iour dis­or­ders and de­vel­op­men­tal dis­abil­i­ties.

Af­ter liv­ing in Halifax for the past three years, MacNeil re­cently quit her job hav­ing worked with the Halifax Autism and De­vel­op­men­tal Sup­port Ser­vice and do­ing pri­vate prac­tice with fam­i­lies with chil­dren with autism spec­trum dis­or­der.

During her time in Halifax, MacNeil also vol­un­teered with Autism Nova Sco­tia and L’Arche Halifax and is cur­rently a mem­ber of the At­lantic Provinces As­so­ci­a­tion for Be­hav­iour Anal­y­sis.

MacNeil said, as a Chris­tian, she felt she needed to go back to In­dia to help.

“I know that I have the skill set now and I know that if they were to have this type of ther­apy, they would have to pay a lot of money for it out of pocket,” said MacNeil. “I know what I trained to do through my school and ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s some­thing they need and some­thing I can pro­vide to them on a vol­un­teer ba­sis, so they don’t need to pay.”

During her time in In­dia, MacNeil will live in an apart­ment with fel­low vol­un­teers.

“It’s a two-bed­room apart­ment that houses on av­er­age two to 10 peo­ple,” said MacNeil. “It’s a much bet­ter liv­ing sit­u­a­tion now than the last time I trav­elled — we didn’t have our own space, but I’ve been told I will have a bed.”

MacNeil said she told her fam­ily in late Oc­to­ber she would be ap­ply­ing to par­tic­i­pate in the six-month vol­un­teer ini­tia­tive.

“They sup­port me no mat­ter what I do,” she said. “When I came back from the first trip, they said they were glad I got my trav­el­ling out of my sys­tem, but I kept telling my Dad that I was se­ri­ous that I was go­ing back to In­dia some day, but he never be­lieved me.”

MacNeil had to fundraise in order to make the trip pos­si­ble. She ex­pects the trip will cost close to $9,000 which in­cludes meals, lodg­ing, sup­plies and her pass­port.

“I’m blessed to have been re­ceiv­ing so many do­na­tions — I thought I would re­ceive a lot of smaller do­na­tions, but I’ve had a lot of peo­ple come for­ward to give larger do­na­tions, which has re­ally helped.”

“I’m pretty close to reach­ing my goal,” said MacNeil.

“Some peo­ple raise money when they go away, but I de­cided to raise all the money up front so that when I’m there I can fo­cus on my work.”

Res­i­dents want­ing to make a do­na­tion to the trip can con­tact MacNeil by email at hal­i­fax­

For those want­ing to fol­low­ing MacNeil’s jour­ney, go to­haviouraboard.word­

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Jessie MacNeil is shown hold­ing a child during a 2012 vol­un­teer trip to In­dia. MacNeil will be re­turn­ing to that coun­try on Feb. 15 to vol­un­teer for six months at Sarah’s Covenant House.

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Jessie MacNeil of Syd­ney River will be leav­ing for In­dia on Feb. 15 to vol­un­teer for six months at Sarah’s Covenant House, a com­mu­nity of fam­ily-style fos­ter homes that house and pro­vide care for chil­dren and young adults with med­i­cal and spe­cial needs.

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