A Chance to Realize Her Dreams: Megina’s Story
Megina: The Fighter
In May 2016, our team went to Côtes-de-Fer, a very poor community in southern Haiti, to conduct an assessment of the community and the impact of our existing programs.
Unfortunately, we kept finding that the most vulnerable children could not even access existing programs in their community. We met children being raised by their elderly grandmothers, surviving on the goodwill of neighbors. We met young children taking care of parents with serious intellectual disabilities, never having a real childhood. We also met children with disabilities who had no access to care and were not welcome in local classrooms. Megina was one of these children.
We met Megina when she was 5 years old. She lived in a single-room house with her dad, mom, and her two brothers. Everyone in their house was malnourished. To make matters more challenging, Megina was born with a rare condition called, Phocomelia, which stopped her arms from developing fully. There is no known treatment for this condition.
We quickly learned that despite her physical limitations, Megina is a fighter. She has figured out how to work around her disability and has created ways to go about her life with independence. She is bright and determined.
“My Megina, she doesn’t let anything stop her.” – Rosena, mom
Blocked Out of the Classroom
Megina wanted nothing more than to go to school with her friends and older brother. For years, she watched her older brother, Juvenson, going to and from school, telling her about the new things he was learning every day. Megina, however, was not welcome in the classroom. The school told her mother that they did not have the resources to accommodate a student with special needs. They would not admit Megina into their school.
Around the world, approximately one billion people live with a disability. Of this one billion, 80% live in the developing world. Children with disabilities are much less likely to be enrolled in school and if they are enrolled, most never graduate from high school.
It is proven that education is the best way for children to rise above their circumstances. However, children with disabilities are too often denied this opportunity. Denying access to education for children with disabilities who are living in extreme only deepens a tragic cycle. Lack of education and opportunity makes it almost impossible for them to reach their fullest potential.
The odds were stacked against Megina, yet she and her mom remained hopeful.
“Megina is a survivor. I don’t want her disability to stop her from learning.” – Rosena
An Angel and A Place in the Classroom
When we shared Megina’s story with the CMMB community, a special donor came forward and decided to become Megina’s Angel Investor. CMMB’s Angel Investor program allows donors the unique opportunity to directly support a child living in extreme poverty.
As soon as Megina found her Angel Investor, our team in Haiti got right to work. An incredible team member, Wilmar, spent her summer researching all of the schools in Haiti that admit children with disabilities. She finally found St. Vincent’s Centre for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince.
St. Vincent’s has been committed to providing quality education to Haitian students with disabilities since the school opened in 1945. It remains one of the only schools in Haiti focused on educating students with special needs.
St. Vincent’s Centre mission: to provide children with disabilities in Haiti special opportunities, support and resources to learn, grow and reach their full potential in their young life’s journey toward adulthood.
At St. Vincent’s students learn to work with their disabilities while also studying reading, writing, history, geography, mathematics, English, art, and music.
A New Uniform and First Day of School Nerves
When September finally came around, Megina and her dad got on a bus from their rural community to the big city of Port-au-Prince. Megina had never left home or her mom before, and now she was going to live at a boarding school very far away. Understandably, she was a little nervous!
When Megina’s dad brought her to St. Vincent’s, she cried as she hugged him goodbye. Those tears did not last long, though. For the first time in her life, Megina was enrolled and welcome in school. All those years of wishing she could have a school uniform, learn to read, and go to class with her friends were behind her.
Today, Megina is loving school and all of the new friends she has met. She is defying the odds and realizing her dreams. Her bright smile really says it all. None of this would be possible without her Angel Investor or the hard work of our team in Haiti.
We believe all children deserve the right to get an education. Megina’s story is proof that each of us has the ability to change one life, and one life can change the world.
Alex Hladick is the Strategy & Innovation Coordinator at CMMB’s headquarters in NYC. She coordinates the day-to-day operation of the Angel Investor program. Prior to taking on this position, she volunteered with the Strategy & Innovation team while she was a student at Fordham University.