Looking back over my blog I realize that it is a bit sparse with stories and updates of Thomas, my oldest boy. Not on purpose but Thomas is easily overlooked in our house. He is quiet and steady and if you ever come to Anchor Gold odds are your your eyes might slide over Thomas and never return to him. If you talk to him odds are he won’t respond and if you are lucky you might get one of his fleeting smiles. But Thomas has taught me some important lessons while I’ve been his house mom.
By worldly standards Thomas won’t be successful. He won’t get married, he won’t make a ton of money, he won’t write a book that will move you to tears. He won’t meet the typical definition of success in a world where you are judged on what you have done. But when we moved beyond an earthly definition of success and judge Thomas for his impact on others we can see that Thomas’s greatest success might be teaching all of us who come in contact with him the meaning of unconditional love.
I’ve lived with Thomas for 2 and a half years now. I’ve tended to him during his many lung infections, taken him on walks, carried him and his wheelchair up and down stairs, celebrated his birthday 3 times, and taken him to the zoo. And I’m still not sure he knows me vs any one else. But that doesn’t matter to me. Thomas isn’t defined by what he gives. Because Thomas show me what unconditional love looks like. Love where I only give and get nothing in return. Unconditional love is hard to come by in the world. It’s hard to love someone who isn’t giving you anything in return. But when we are able to give unconditional love we get a glimpse of the Father’s love for us; his infinite, all consuming love that we will never be able to comprehend here on earth.
And Thomas’ greatest impact on this world may be on others. For the younger kids who have come to accept Thomas just as he is and fight over who gets to push his wheelchair. At a young age they have come to know what it means to love and accept someone for who they are. On his caregivers who have loved and cared for him even without getting much in return. For all the volunteers who have worked with Thomas over his past 10 years at SCH, who have taken a moment to sit with him and feel the breeze that he so enjoys. Many years ago a team was praying for Thomas and got to witness his first smile at SCH. And although I have no idea where any of those volunteers ended up I can’t help but think that witnessing Thomas’ first smile must have changed their way of thinking and praying a bit.
Last night at bib!e study we talked about how sometimes things that transpire in our lives have nothing to do with us and everything to do with how they are going to impact someone else’s life. And that might be how Thomas makes his impact on this world. His steady and still presence helps us to recenter in the midst of almost constant chaos that seems to be a part of our life here.
Thomas has lived most of his life at SCH and will probably spend the rest of his earthly life here at SCH. He came when he was 2 years old and he’s 12 years old now. Recently I was rereading our founder Sarah’s blog from the early days of SCH. And scattered throughout was tiny Thomas drinking his bottle and hanging out in his bumbo chair. One blog post about growing old with the children has been on my mind since I read it. Cute little boys grow up to be men and sometimes they still need the same care that they needed as boys. It’s hard to get caregivers and sponsorship for the older children. But Thomas needs people to grow old with him. To see beyond what meets the eye and see Thomas for his unconditional love he teaches us and the power of the lessons from those who appear to be the most powerless. Right now Thomas needs $230/month in sponsorship (And shoutout to my parents and sister who are his monthly sponsors right now). I don’t have any inspiring stories to share about Thomas to convince people to sponsor him but I do know this. That in a world full of uncertainty and pain that Thomas shows us what it means to love and to be still and let god work through him. And that is a powerful lessons we can all learn from.
Recently at Anchor Home we have seen some really great progress in some of the kids! It seems like the kids go in spurts. I will do the same thing over and over again for months and get the same blank stares. And then one day it all clicks and they finally start to make some progress!
Right now our main time for school based activities is in the mornings. We start off with circle time at 10 where every child gets the chance to choose their picture, put it on the board, and then we sing to them. Our song goes a bit like this “Look who came to school today, school today, school today, look who came to school today, (child’s name) did!” At first it was just me singing it but after so many months of repetition some of the kids and the caregivers will sing along to! For our kids with visual impairments there is a texture on their picture card that signals to them which one belongs to them and for Cara, Julie, and Caden they now have to choose which letter their name starts with out of three felt letters and then choose their photo. When I first introduced this activity in July all the kids needed hand over hand assistance but now they are much better at identifying themselves and really enjoy seeing everyones photos!
After everyone is welcomed we sing preschool songs! We have a bank of songs that the kids know and I usually give them a choice between 2 songs. The favorites come and go in waves but right now our favorites are wheels on the bus, slippery fish, itsy bitsy spider, where is thumbkin, and row row row your boat. Cara, Caden, and Julie know all the hand motions to the songs and Abe, Josie, and Emerald are working on learning them! I’m not exactly known for my singing voice but after each and every song the kids clap which is a good self esteem boaster! Typically after singing several songs we read a book. All of the kids really enjoy books and like to touch the pages of the book as we read them. Sometimes Abe gets a bit of of control and knocks the book out of my hand with his enthusiastic touching!
After reading we typically do a big group activity. I try to switch it up so its a bit different everyday but we rotate through several of the same activities. A crowd favorite is parachute games! The kids love playing with the parachute and we work in counting to three, identifying colors, and listening while we play. We’ve also recently introduced hot potato which gets intense not so much with the kids but with the caregivers. They want the child they are helping to win and they get cutthroat sometimes! We also will get out of box of instruments and play them to music, each take a turn putting on a part of Mr. Potato Head’s body parts, and identifying different toy animals and their sounds. We try to get a bit creative during this time while also trying to accommodate everyone’s different needs! We finish our circle time every day with calendar time where we put up the date, sing our day of the week song, and talk about the weather.
After circle time wraps up the kids start their various activities. Thomas, Valor, Katherine, Sarita, Emerald, and Shiloh all have a giant tummy time party while Julie goes to her preschool class with our teacher Hanna. Josie, Cara, Caden, and Abe all have free play time where they choose between activities such as blocks, sensory play with rice or water beads, book, or another activity. Penny usually works with me during this time on her communication and other skills. At around 11:15 we take a break for snack time!
After snack Caden and Cara go to their preschool class and then at 12 Thomas, Valar, Katherine, Penny, and Sarita go outside to attend class with their special education teacher. I usually take Shiloh and Emerald during this time and work on some baby play skills such as reaching, sitting up, reading books, and singing songs. Then at 12:15 Josie and Abe go to class and I usually set up an activity for Caden, Cara, and Julie to do at the table. At around 12:45 we start transitioning to cleaning everything up and eating lunch! Our mornings are very busy but with this current schedule we have seen some great gains in the kids.
- Emerald has learned to sit up and is starting to clap her hands and babble more!
- Julie can identify what letter her name starts with and knows everyone names. She used to call everyone “Amma” but recently she has started calling the kids and staff by their names
- Cara is counting up to 5, knows her animal sounds, can identify what letter her name starts with, and is starting to work more on her shapes and colors
- Josie is starting to talk more and is starting to learn her animal noises. She also loves to do the motions to songs during circle time.
- Caden is counting up to 3 and knows some of his colors. He’s also able to identify the letter his name starts with and singing along with most of our circle time songs.
- Penny finally mastered the ring stacker and is working hard on using her picture communication. We’ve seen her become more consistent with her communication over the past couple of months!
- Valor is working on using his two sided switch during his classes with good success. Right now he’s still working on “more” and “stop”.
- Abe is sitting and attending to activities for several minutes at a time which is huge for our little busy body! He’s also counting up to 3.
Here at SCH we believe in the power of education. Education is such a privilege and we are blessed to have access to some really great resources but here and abroad. For the 12 kids in my house they are only able to be served by education in the home for several reasons. First off its hard to find schools that will accept our children with more severe needs. There is no law that mandates equal access to education for children with disabilities. Second many of the kids from a medical standpoint that can’t attend school at the moment. With their unique set of needs its hard for many of them to attend school even if they could serve their special needs. Also it makes more sense for our budget if we just hire one teacher that can come to us as opposed to having to pay school fees separately for all the kids! I’m currently spread too thin to meet all the needs of the kids so we were able to find a new teacher who will start tomorrow! We’re excited about the chance to get to train her and teach her how to work with our kids. But we need to bring in the funds to help pay her salary. The incoming teacher’s salary will be $140/month or $2,000 for the whole year. We are searching for monthly sponsors or one time donations to help us provide for this need. Education is one of the most powerful tools we can give these kids, can you join us and help give the kids at Anchor a better education? Use the link below to help us educate our kids!
Also we are looking to partner with schools and teachers. If you or someone you know might be interested please let me know and we can chat. We would love to communicate with other classrooms all around the world and teach each other!