Monday, June 8, 2009

École Saint Vincent pour Enfants Handcapés

St. Vincent’s School for Disabled Children was started by Sr. Joan Margaret, SSM, in 1945. At the time, there was no schooling available for disabled children, who were often abandoned. (Even now, there is a toddler at the school who was simply left in the courtyard one day.) As I have heard the story, there was a blind baby that had been abandoned and no one was going to take it (him? her?), so Sr. Joan took the child home to the convent; eventually a school was established, growing from a few children taught under a tree in the courtyard to a current total of 385 students (including 156 boarders), with another 1215 served at the attached clinic and 347 more receiving physical therapy.

Academic courses are offered for the first nine years (three cycles of three years, with a national exam taken at the end of the sixth and ninth years in order to graduate from those cycles); students at St. Vincent’s may board until these classes are complete or through the age of sixteen, whichever comes first.

Students at St. Vincent’s have in the past taken classes at the nearby Holy Trinity Music School (next door to the cathedral), and there are discussions underway about beginning this partnership again. I believe I saw the results of this earlier collaboration at the Spectacle de Variétés benefiting the cathedral last weekend: the leader of the classical brass quintet was a trumpeter with one arm.

The Brace Shop at St. Vincent’s makes (and remakes) braces to order. Their current head was educated in Montreal and came home to work, a real ministry. When he gave me a tour at Sr. Marjorie Raphael’s request, I was fascinated by the process (see photos). This year they served 365 people, fewer than usual, because there was less material imported, according to the diocesan report. They are currently working to develop a partnership with a group called Healing Hands. I believe this may be the organization with which a parishioner in my former field education parish is working – wouldn’t that be a nice coincidence! (Cynthia: would you ask Judy? I’ve already passed on the materials she gave me.) They have also worked with the Children’s Medical Mission of Haiti.

Volunteers at St. Vincent’s School are able to stay in a few guest rooms on site, which is very convenient, as hotels in the area are expensive, and transportation can be a bit complicated. (The sisters also have a few rooms at the Foyer Notre Dame, which is not walking distance but which is inexpensive.)

The school has been hit by the economic crisis just like everyone else. As part of the school’s mission is focused on providing services to those who are particularly impoverished, not much money comes in by way of tuition, and they are shorthanded in physical therapists for their regular students, among other things.

Anyone wishing to help may contact the school through the following channels:

Révérend Père Sadoni Léon, Directeur

The Children’s Medical Mission of Haiti (which also works with the Hôpital Ste Croix in Léogâne)
The Right Reverend Roger White, Chair
925 Hertzler Road
Mechanicsburg, PA 17005

If you are interested in sponsoring a child or young person through the Sisters Scholarship Program, you can email Sr. Marie Margaret. (She cannot answer questions about the school itself, however, as the Sisters no longer run it. For that, please contact the school itself.)
Be sure to include all your contact information so that she can reach you.

Finally, I found this website based at an Episcopal parish in CT:

1 comment:

  1. AnonymousJune 20, 2009

    Thank you siter Sarah. I really appreciate the way you tell this story.

    I hope to see you about that a day. I would like to make a good brochure for St Vincent which reflect the reality.

    Once again thank you. i will pass that to all St vincent Contcat.

    May God bless you in your new ministry.

    In Christ,