Help me build a school to give dis­abled kids a chance

Southport Visiter - - Front Page - BY CHRISTY BYRNE [email protected]­i­tymir­ror.com @ByrneChristy

ASOUTHPORT so­cial worker em­barked on a trip to Malawi as she seeks to raise money for ed­u­cat­ing dis­abled chil­dren in the south­ern African na­tion.

Teresa Smith, 58, is a vic­tim of the thalido­mide scan­dal, and is wheel­chair bound, but it did not stop her from trav­el­ling to Malawi and vis­it­ing a school for the dis­abled there at the in­vi­ta­tion of Fa­ther Blaise Jailosh, a Malaw­ian priest with whom she struck up a friend­ship while he was work­ing in Crosby.

Hav­ing seen the lack of re­sources at the school, she has set up the Teresa Smith Foun­da­tion which will be rais­ing money to build a new one.

Teresa said: “The rea­son I went to Malawi was that a good friend of mine, Fr Blaise, was telling me that there were very few fa­cil­i­ties for dis­abled chil­dren.

“He thought there was a thalido­mide child, and with me be­ing thalido­mide he just wanted some clar­i­fi­ca­tion.

“The nuns were look­ing after him and they needed some help in de­cid­ing what med­i­cal treat­ment he may need, he’s only 11 so ob­vi­ously the drug is still go­ing around.

“He’s very, very small, his legs are twisted and his arms aren’t fully formed, he could have done with med­i­cal sup­port ear­lier on in his life.

“He hasn’t even got a wheel­chair, he can walk very, very lit­tle so he’s car­ried around vir­tu­ally all the time.

“So I went out there to see him and ended up work­ing in one of the dis­abled schools.

“There’s about 25 chil­dren there, and the big­gest lux­ury of the day is to look for­ward to hav­ing an ice pop; they have hardly any vis­i­tors.

“It was re­ally sad, they’re in big adult wheel­chairs and they’re all taught the same, there’s noth­ing geared to them, there’s no equip­ment for them. The re­sources are re­ally poor, there’s no crayons or books, very lit­tle for them to do.

“They were de­lighted to see me, I brought them sweets and we all sang to­gether.

“When we look at our own dis­abled chil­dren and the sup­port we have for them, thank God we’ve got in­te­gra­tion now within schools, but these kids are just sit­ting there.

“It looks like a mil­i­tary camp from World War Three, it’s run by nuns who have to beg for ev­ery­thing they get, even their food.

“There’s no re­sources out there, no ben­e­fits.”

Teresa’s trip was given added drama when she had an awk­ward, and dan­ger­ous, en­counter with a wild ele­phant, when it paid her a visit in the toi­let

She ex­plained: “We went for a day out to a na­tional park and no­ticed that the ele­phants were go­ing to­wards the bush.

“The next thing the ele­phant turns to­wards us, Fr Blaise was pan­ick­ing and couldn’t get the car into gear to get it go­ing.

“I was laugh­ing away, and the next thing I see that the ele­phant was re­ally look­ing at me – I had quite a colour­ful pink and white dress on.

“We did a tour, came back to the lodge and I went to the toi­let.

“When I was in there I could hear Fr Blaise shout­ing to me ‘don’t come out Teresa, don’t come out there’s an ele­phant out­side!’

“I didn’t be­lieve it, I’ve got a re­ally good re­la­tion­ship with Fr Blaise and he knows my sense of hu­mour so I thought he was wind­ing me up. So I came out of the side en­trance and there it was, right out­side the toi­let.

“I had seen the cur­tain flap­ping in the toi­let and I did think ‘it’s 100 de­grees, how’s the cur­tain flap­ping?’, and then I re­alised that it must have been the trunk.

“So the ele­phant was fac­ing me, my wheel­chair wouldn’t go into gear, I re­versed over a poor lad’s foot when I did get it mov­ing.

“I laugh about it now but it was quite scary.

“I didn’t re­alise how wild the African ele­phants were, they can do a lot of dam­age – an­other priest was killed by one which is why Fr Blaise was so wor­ried.”

But the ex­pe­ri­ence did noth­ing to dampen Teresa’s en­thu­si­asm for the project, and she said that she hoped to build part­ner­ships with schools in Eng­land when the Malaw­ian school is up and run­ning.

She said: “It’s sad be­cause there’s ob­vi­ously some very in­tel­li­gent chil­dren who need to be brought on, and given the right sup­port and re­sources.

“We could do with hav­ing a col­lec­tion for them so we can get them toys, as there’s no toys ei­ther, pens and pa­per, just the ba­sics.

“I was even hav­ing to give bread out, we ran out and there were still loads of peo­ple still need­ing to be fed.

“It was heart wrench­ing to have to say ‘I’m sorry, I’ve no bread left to give you’.

“I’ve been a so­cial worker for 25 years so I’m kind of used to it, but you’ve got to have a heart of stone to not be af­fected.

“I want to raise funds to do more if we can, it’s a mag­i­cal project.

“I’d like to build a com­plete new school for dis­abled chil­dren and nondis­abled chil­dren and in­te­grate them, they’d have a far bet­ter life­style and give them some more pur­pose in life.

“They can learn at schools and earn their own money.

“Tech­nol­ogy is so good now that we could set up part­ner­ships with schools over here.”

For more in­for­ma­tion on the foun­da­tion, email Teresa on gold­en­[email protected] google­mail.com

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