Daughters of Charity and Vincentian Volunteer program work with visually impaired children in Great Britain. Dee Mansi, President of the AIC in Britain submitted this material.
St Vincent’s School for visually impaired (VI) children was established in West Derby, Liverpool in 1901 by the Daughters of Charity. The school, along with Christopher Grange a residential care home, forms the Catholic Blind Institute (CBI). Recently, the school has reinvigorated its Mission and Vision to serve the VI community through the generation of an ‘education and enterprise’ village within the school grounds. Encouragingly, and importantly, the Vision is supported in prayer by the community of Daughters living and serving at Christopher Grange. It is a vision which embraces both the past, and future thinking. The school was presented with a High Sheriff of Merseyside ‘Hidden Gem’ award in 2014, and is now to receive recognition by the City of Liverpool in the conferment of the highest award the City can bestow; inclusion on the City’s ‘Freedom Roll of Association’.
We would like to share our Vision with you, and ask for your support in prayer, and in other ways, so we may collaborate and spread our best practices nationally and internationally in service to VI communities worldwide. Ultimately, we want to change two statistics and the negative outcomes which emerge from them:
- in the UK 85% of VI pupils struggle to find work,
- VI pupils have 5-6 less friends than their sighted peers,
Internationally, these statistics are higher and a cause for concern.
Education is central to the concept of the village. The village concept ties together educational and medical research in establishing the strengths of each individual child. These strengths are then enhanced by undertaking project-based learning alongside partners who may offer employment, traineeships or apprenticeships. This creative curriculum has already seen outcomes; one of the most important being the development of technological ideas owned by our pupils. Technology is an area which offers to breakdown employment and socialising barriers for the VI community. St Vincent’s is in the vanguard of such development, supported by a number of Universities including Liverpool Hope University, the only faith based University in Europe and more recently in best practice sharing with St. Paul’s eye hospital. We want to share what we are developing at St. Vincent’s and replicate employment focused ideas here in the UK and overseas. We are celebrating our work on our website www.stvin.com and on our twitter account @StvincentsL12 if you would like to look further. Additionally, the Guardian recently ran an article on school which provides a flavour; ‘World’s First Visually-Impaired Ukulele Orchestra, what next for a school with dreams?’ at http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/sep/12/the-worlds-first-visually-impaired-ukulele-band-what-next-for-a-school-with-dreams
This year the school re-engaged with the Vincentian Volunteer programme, welcoming Miss Margaret Wolpert and Miss Franziska Gillner from America and Germany. This, along with the visit by Dr. Anton Geiser and 20 head teachers from Germany (to be repeated 2016) from the Christian Institute EFWI (Erziehungswissenschaftliches Fort- und Weiterbildungsinstitut der evangelischen Kirchen in Rheinland-Pfalz), alongside their links to disability groups in Africa, form our first steps in sharing our knowledge and service for VI communities. http://www.efwi.de/international-cooperation/international-cooperation-engl.html.
Such steps are enriched by renewed, and closer collaborative ties with our past pupil organisation (SVOPA) under the guide of Chair, Mr. Michael Allen. Moreover, the new pathway to securing Qualified Teacher Status in the UK i.e. Schools Direct is run within the ‘village’. Taking research for the National College for Teaching and Learning on its progress, we are at the heart of developing the teachers of tomorrow within the teaching vocation. What are the messages we should share with new student teachers, as we reflect on the impact they will have on children across their careers?
Our village concept is underpinned by social capital theory, i.e. when networks of neighbourhoods work together, positive outcomes are evidenced such as increased achievement, better health and reduced crime. It is a theory recognised by The World Bank and the OECD board. As the wider family of St Vincent’s, we ask you to pray and work with us in developing, researching and sharing best practices. Best practices championed by the love and example of Christ.
Currently, we have been asked to ‘twin’ and replicate the village concept with several schools for the blind overseas. We are starting with a school in Mekelle, Ethiopia and the Purwanchal School in Nepal. We have already assessed the clinical needs of children in Mekelle with our ophthalmologist volunteers, and in April we sent teachers to assess educational and mobility needs. Our aim is to bring teachers to St Vincent’s next year and, with our older pupils, share employable skills and mobility training thereby generating the trainers of the trainers in a ‘win win’ scenario. This work will also engage the fifteen Primary and Secondary Roman Catholic schools in our West Derby Learning Network, attaching to new Social Moral Spiritual Cultural (SMSC) and PREVENT curricula. These two new areas, and part of what is taught in British schools, forms a significant opportunity through which to share our service and our faith. For our American cousins across the ‘pond,’ and the wider Vincentian family, similar opportunity would exist behind curricular interventions attached to ‘citizenship’ and ‘No Child Left Behind’ research (Every Child Matters in the UK). Watch our twitter for more information on this and the upcoming www.helpingliverpooltosee.co.uk and www.helpingcommunitiestosee.com projects.
We need your help in developing creative ideas within the village and to develop the sharing mechanisms with VI communities worldwide. This collaboration would radically challenge the statistics I opened with. Ultimately, we are asking if you can pray and consider financially supporting us in spreading our Mission and Vision. If one million people understood our Vision and its potential impact worldwide and sent just 50p in support, what practical ‘Good News’ could our St. Vincent family have shared in service to the VI community? Let us show you in real outcome terms! Please join us daily as we develop the Vision, by following us on Twitter @StvincentsL12.
Dr. John. A. Patterson
St. Vincent’s School, Liverpool.
Contact : firstname.lastname@example.org