Written by: Bethany Joseph, Director of Special Needs Programming at myLIFEspeaks
Listen to the audio/podcast version, here.
Have you ever had to hide your child or worry about what people would say if you were walking around with them? This is a problem that Marie Sonie, the mother of one of the children in our special education classes faced. Her son Sonoldens was born with physical and cognitive delays, and in Haiti, that is a sentence for discrimination.
Marie Sonie struggled for the first several years of Sonoldens’ life. Sonoldens’ father did not want to be a part of his life so she was left to raise him by herself. She had many friends and family that didn’t want to be around her and Sonoldens. She felt so alone and she felt like God had forsaken her. She felt hopeless, until a God-ordained moment in which she happened to be in the same malnutrition clinic with Sonoldens that myLIFEspeaks had sent another child to.
Our social worker was able to talk to Marie Sonie about myLIFEspeaks and what our vision and mission is. He was able to share the work myLIFEspeaks does with people with disabilities. She was intrigued and started looking further into how myLIFEspeaks could help her and her son.
Neply was 30 minutes away from where she lived but she was willing to see how myLIFEspeaks could help her. Marie Sonie first began by enrolling Sonoldens in LIFE Therapy. He was very low-functioning when he started but slowly started developing important skills needed to function. After being enrolled in therapy, his mother started asking about school because Sonoldens was the age at which most children in Haiti start school. He would not be accepted into any “normal” (this is the actual term for general education schools in Haiti) school in Haiti so she was thrilled to hear what LIFE Academy is doing advocating for education for children with disabilities.
Sonoldens got put on a waiting list and the next school year he started school. At this point, Marie Sonie and Sonoldens were still living about 30 minutes away from Neply. Each day he had therapy or school they had a 30-minute motorcycle ride to Neply and a 30-minute ride back home. This was taxing, but worth it for her because her child was getting services that she could not find where she lived. While Sonoldens was at school, Marie Sonie started just staying in Neply to wait for him to be done instead of going home and coming come back.
She started noticing a difference in the people here. She noticed a difference in how people treated her and Sonoldens.
She started noticing a difference in the people here. She noticed a difference in how people treated her and Sonoldens. She didn’t have support from neighbors where she lived. She lived with family, but other than them, she felt alone and isolated. By spending more time in Neply, she started finding that she didn’t have to feel alone and isolated. She even talked about how in Neply, Sonoldens was somebody and she was somebody. She wasn’t embarrassed to walk around with him. She had a commUNITY that was behind her and her child.
"In Neply, Sonoldens was somebody and she was somebody. She wasn’t embarrassed to walk around with him. She had a commUNITY that was behind her and her child."
After much thought, she made the decision to move away from the only family that did support her and Sonoldens to move to Neply, where there would be a better life for them. After moving to Neply, Marie Sonie was able to become one of our most faithful members in Bèl Ewo. She walks around the village with Sonoldens and people call his name and talk to them as they are walking. Sometimes they both will sit outside in front of the local church with other villagers. She is so happy that she no longer feels that she has to hide him away in the house.
Sonoldens is thriving in school. His teachers and classmates love him. The village of Neply has surrounded Marie Sonie and Sonoldens. It has been amazing to watch the transformation of Sonoldens and how he is growing, learning, and developing in a country that says he is worthless. It has also been amazing to watch the transformation of Marie Sonie and the joy she has now that she has hope and support.
Her relationship with the Lord has grown so strong through this. Her testimony is something that is helping other parents who feel they have no hope. As I think about Marie Sonie, Romans 15:13 comes to my head. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Marie Sonie felt alone, she felt forsaken, but after finding out about Neply and becoming a part of Bèl Ewo, she allowed God to fill her with joy, peace, and hope. This joy, peace, and hope now overflows onto her friends, family, neighbors, and other members of Bèl Ewo.