Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘school’

After School Class

51DkXJGlttL._SY346_Ninja School Mum by Lizzie Chantree
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Skye is not an ordinary mother in a small town, and it turns out not everyone else is either. Reluctantly, Skye (and her son Leo), allows herself to become friends with Thea (and her daughter Florence, and niece, Allie). She also becomes “very close” to the landowner (Zack). Nobody knows Skye’s work history (or so she thinks), and she wants to keep it that way.

Ninja School Mum isn’t strictly a romance, suspense novel, or mystery, but more of a delicious stew with all three mixed in. Told from different points of view by the main characters (Skye, Thea, and Zack), it feels like you’re being taken into their confidence. It is impossible to not like them all, and understand their motivations for what they do, and how they interact with others.

The writing is pragmatic, with thoughts, feelings, and situations, clearly defined and explained. There is lots of drama, tension, emotion, and humor within these pages. Soon after Thea has met Skye, and they are in a bakery with her infant daughter (“Flo”), Thea thinks, “Im lusting after a slice of cake while my breasts have a mind of their own and are ready to combust with enough milk to flood this shop.”

If you think you know who did what when, and whether someone is tracking down Skye because of her previous job, you should be forewarned to not make any bets on your conclusions. Ms. Chantree has taken several genres and story lines and converted them into something familiar, yet also entirely different. Ninja School Mum is entertaining, romantic, suspenseful, and well worth the money and time.

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Your Son Can’t Hear

61Q3NRycOJLA Mother’s Heart: Memoir of a Special Needs Parent by Eichin Chang-Lim. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

A clear-sighted, perfectly weighted memoir with balance of experience, insight, and observation. A Mother’s Heart doesn’t stray into un-associated material, and stays right on track, as Ms. Chang-Lim explores what it was like raising their son, Teddy, who is severely hearing-impaired. From his first days as a baby, up through the present (with Teddy now in his 20s), the author conveys the joys, frustrations, and what she has learned being the parent to her son, and her daughter (Victoria).

Upon hearing that her son couldn’t hear, the author writes, “Although the diagnoses was not a surprise, I was still sad and angry. I was angry that the whole universe did not show a shred of remorse for my son’s deafness. I was angry that my husband seemed so calm and in control. I was angry that I blamed myself for my son’s disability.” What she discovers is that her son’s hearing loss was a result of a disease called Waaredenberg Syndrome, though didn’t help much knowing when it came to his educational and social adjustments.

Most everything a parent of a hearing-impaired, or deaf, child needs to know, is either discussed, or mentioned in these pages. Chapter include headings such as, It’s Okay to Cry; A Support System Is Crucial; Early Intervention; Spouse Communication; Motherhood vs. Career; and Choosing the Right Special Education Placement. None of these issues are over-dramatized, or indulged in, nor are they skimmed or minimized. There is just the right amount of honesty, information, and personal frustration shared for readers to easily relate.

Each chapter begins with a perfect quote, such as E.M. Foster’s, “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, to have the life that is waiting for us.” Ms. Chang-Lim didn’t plan on having to confront the realities of having a hearing-impaired child, but she has done so with grit and grace. An especially helpful portion is a segment her daughter writes about growing up with her brother Teddy, and how the attention he got effected her, and their relationship as siblings. Whether you have s child with special needs, or not, A Mother’s Heart speaks volumes for mothers and fathers everywhere.

Be A Brave Girl

downloadBrave Sophia: A Children’s Book sbout Bravery and Courage by Tamala Johnson, J.D. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

This story reminded me of the tale about a man who fell asleep under a tree and dreamed that he was a butterfly. When he awoke, he didn’t know if he was now a butterfly dreaming he was a man, or a man who had dreamed of being a butterfly.

Brave Sophia is about a little girl who is scared to talk in front of her class. Her mother tells her she must be brave and do it anyway. Sophia goes into the backyard, dozes off, and dreams that she is a butterfly. In the dream she discovers that she must be brave in order to survive. She awakes with newfound strength and insight.

Be a brave girl,” Sophia’s mother said. “You have to go to school and give your best speech even if you are afraid.”

Sophia spread her arms wide and flapped them like they were butterfly wings. “Mom, don’t worry. I have decided to be brave. I know how to fly now. I am brave Sophia!”

This children’s story is simple, enjoyable, and shares one of life’s truths in a way that young and old can understand and put into practice. The illustrations match the words perfectly. It is a picture book that can be read to a child, or read by a child, the older they become. Let yourself fly and pick up a copy of Brave Sophia.

YA At Its Best

41w-kjfxSrL._UY250_Charla Visits Earth by Dianne Astle
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Charla Visits Earth is a wonderful short story that is almost believable, if it weren’t for the dragon and mermaid, and for all we know maybe they’re real too. Just having returned from a trip to Vancouver, it was the perfect time to read this tale by Ms. Astle, as it takes place in the same region of Canada, and includes places I visited.

Ben is a student at Fairhaven boarding school, a private school whose principal, Miss Templeton, is also the Earth’s Watcher, though only a few students are aware of such. Ben is one of those who knows, because of a previous visit he made to another world where he met Charla, a mermaid. It is quite an adventure when Charla turns up on earth to see Ben and wants to explore the city and see what life is like on this planet.

“Everywhere Charla looked there were things she never, in her wildest dreams, imagined, and humans came in so many different colors and shapes, and wore such a wild variety of clothes. It made her own world seem so plain and ordinary and drab. Mer all had the same color hair, the same dark eyes, and they dressed alike.”

This story is an off-shoot from the author’s novel Ben the Dragon. I haven’t yet read her other stories, but after reading Charla Visits Earth surely will. Her writing is to the point, descriptive, and endearing.

Nothing But the Best

SecondBestSecond Best by Charmaine Pauls
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

The story is a beautiful work of art that alternates between the first person account of Molly von Aswegen as a teen, and her later life in Johannesburg, South Africa, as told in the third person. The tale takes place between 1981 and 1984 with 17-year-old Molly fighting for her life in an industrial school (similar to reform school), and the foster homes, jobs, and people she encounters once she gets out. The pacing, and timing, between her past, and present, are done seamlessly and to great effect.

Having most every horrible thing possible happen to her before she turns twenty-one, it is not surprising that Molly has little trust in others, and no self regard for herself. There are only two people that stay with her, and whom she trusts. Malcolm (Mal) meets her at school just before he goes off into the army and to fight in Angola. Neill Mckenzie, who owns the Opera Bakery, is the second person who sees something more in Molly than her life circumstances and reputation. Neill sees potential and a passion for baking. The story is reminiscent of the 2015 film Dough (without the comedic elements), which has an old Jewish baker struggling to keep his business alive in London, and the teenage Muslim boy he hires, who is “nothing but trouble”.

All of the character’s in Second Best are played well. Molly and Neill’s families are from different sides of town, and each member comes to life. Molly’s friend and foes at school, Berta, Mr. de Jonge, and Jessica, are like people you may know, or have known. The Opera Bakery’s obnoxious and self-centered patron, Judge William Brooks, who has power, prestige, and a sense of entitlement, can also be found in cities across the world. Realism, with dialogue, character, and action, run rampant throughout the story.

Second Best is a well crafted, insightful, and entertaining story, that takes you into the heart and soul of a young woman finding her way through a hellish childhood, and discovering if anything reminiscent of self-love, respect, and love, is remotely possible.

What A Year Its Been

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Last year we faced our program’s greatest challenge and you, Rwandan Orphans Project and Imizi Children’s Center supporters, came to the rescue and helped us secure our future for years to come. That achievement made 2015 ROP’s best year yet, but I’m very happy to tell you 2016 was an equally great year for us and those we support.

Why is that? Well, from the moment we settled into our new home we began making renovations and improvements around our property that have made our Imizi Children’s Center a better place for our children. But while those changes are important, what Imizi is really all about is helping vulnerable people, and this year we have been able to serve more than ever before.

And we’re not only helping kids anymore. Recognizing that adults can also benefit from our presence in our rural community we began hosting meetings and workshops for local people and the family members of children who stay with us, where they could learn about family planning, sexual health, positive parenting, gender equality and other topics. Our goal is to help solve domestic issues before they lead to a breakdown of the family. To us preventing a child from leaving home to live on the street is just as important as helping those who are already out there.

We’ve had many achievements this year, and we hope you are as proud of them as we are. In 2016:

We increased the total number of vulnerable children attending our school from 140 to 200. These are children from our community’s poorest families who cannot afford to pay for public school, so they attend Imizi’s school completely free of charge.

We completely renovated one of the boys’ dormitories, making it more comfortable and safe for them. We also constructed new toilets and an eco-friendly outdoor kitchen that is great for the environment and saves us money.

We began constructing a massive underground water storage tank with a rainwater collection system that should ensure our children and animals have access to water even during the long dry seasons.

We successfully reintegrated 11 children back into their families. Each of them will continue going to school with the support of ROP.

 We rescued 19 children from homelessness. Three of them were only five years old, while the others were all under 10 years old.

We have five boys who have completed secondary school, two who have finished vocational school and one who has graduated university with a bachelor’s degree. In 2017 we will be supporting 21 in secondary school and 8 in vocational training.

Eight – that’s right EIGHT – of our graduates have performed well enough to earn government scholarships to university starting next year. That is a record for ROP and a huge achievement for these amazing young men.

To all of those who have donated to us this year and supported us in other ways – thank you for your continued support. We are so grateful to have your support as we do our work. 

For those who wish to make a donation as we approach 2017, you can visit our website for details of how to do this.

Paid Off Land & Top of Class

Greetings from Rwanda!

We hope you are having a great summer! There’s been a lot going on around the Rwandan Orphans Project’s Imizi Children’s Center, so we wanted to tell you what we’ve been up to since our last update.

The biggest and best news is the fact that we have been able to fully pay off our new land. That’s right, back in May we were able to make the final payment on our new home, and we are currently in the process of finalizing the paperwork that will secure the property, and our future, for many years to come. 

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When the ROP started out in an abandoned industrial warehouse the idea of having our own permanent home was nothing more than a dream. In 2010 we were able to move to a better location, but there we had to pay rent, which was a significant burden on our budget each and every year. Today we have finally realized our goal of securing a permanent facility for our children’s program, and we couldn’t have done it without you.

Another great achievement happened just last Friday when one of our graduates, Jean, graduated from the National University of Rwanda having earned himself a bachelor’s degree. Even more impressive was the fact that he graduated FIRST IN HIS ENTIRE CLASS! That is no small feat at all, especially considering he graduated with nearly 2,000 other students.

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Jean is a survivor of the 1994 Genocide, the tragedy that saw approximately 800,000 Rwandans killed, including his own parents and siblings. He is the sole survivor of his family, and the physical and mental scars were never easy for him to overcome. After losing his family he ended up surviving on his own on the streets of Kigali until, at age 12, he found the ROP. No student worked harder in the classroom and when Jean wasn’t in class, washing his clothes or doing other chores his nose would be buried in any book he could get his hands on. The results of his commitment to aspire to a better life combined with the opportunities ROP was able to give him are now celebrated by us all.

When speaking to our boys at his party he told them, “I attended classes with rich kids and kids who had ‘normal’ families. Many of them doubted me and discouraged me because, in their eyes, having been a street boy, I could never hope to achieve anything. First I proved them wrong by being elected class president in my second year. Many still doubted me, so I showed them by becoming the best student in the entire school. Now they can’t doubt me. Never let anyone doubt you because of where you came from. The only one who can stop you doing great things is yourself”.

Please support the Rwandan Orphans Project’s Imizi Children’s Center.

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