For over a year now, we have lived in the long shadow of the pandemic. Loved ones gone, businesses ruined, young children robbed of simple joys, jobs lost and fears of an uncertain future. In the midst of this darkness, there have been beacons of light, casting a soft glow around them. I speak of the doctors, nurses, frontline and essential workers, volunteers and countless others. They have thrown aside their own burdens to bring solace to others, to light a path out of this darkness. They show us that where there is a will, there is a way. They are our heroes.
Heroes are not just those who have fought epic battles. They are ordinary people who have done extraordinary things. Bethany Hamilton was only 13 when a 14-foot-long tiger shark attacked her, severing her left arm. She was hospitalized but less than a month later, she taught herself to surf with one arm and returned to surfing. At age 81, after watching the London Marathon, Fauja Singh decided to take up running. He ran his first marathon when he was 89. He was also the first 100 year old to finish a Marathon after competing at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
In the world of literacy, we often encounter those who have dyslexia. Some, unable to cope or get the help they need, drift into drugs, alcohol and crime. However, others have found a way to overcome this challenge. Pablo Picasso was dyslexic but used his artistic talent to paint things as he saw or felt them – out of order, deformed and tilted. Tom Cruise and Richard Branson are two others who serve as an inspiration.
Beethoven’s loss of hearing didn’t stop him from composing music. In fact, he wrote many of his most famous pieces while partially or totally deaf. It is likely that Beethoven never heard a single note of his magnum opus Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, played. Helen Keller lost her sight and hearing at nineteen months. Yet she became the first deafblind person to get a Bachelor of Arts degree. She authored 14 books, was a disability rights advocate and lecturer.
Age was not a barrier for Greta Thunberg. The 18 year old Swedish activist is known for her crusade for protecting the environment and pushing world leaders to act on climate change. Despite her tender age, Malala Yousafzai took on the Taliban as she championed the cause of education for girls.
While all these individuals have shown us that we can move ahead despite adversity, we can draw tremendous inspiration from our own students at the Hamilton Literacy Council. Everyday problems like paying bills, looking after children, finding jobs and such are magnified several times over, for our students. In addition, many battle depression and panic attacks. ADHD and dyslexia make reading and writing particularly difficult.
Yet they dig deep within themselves and find the strength to overcome the challenges they face. They have shown us that they have the Will. It is for us to help them along the Way.
Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way ………….Literally
Many children around the world undertake perilous journeys to receive an education that some of us take for granted. According to UNESCO, progress in connecting children to schools in the Third World countries has slowed down. Paths are dangerous and suitable routes can often flood. Lack of funds and recurring natural disasters make it difficult to provide a solution.
1. School Children Climbing on Unsecured Wooden Ladders, Zhang Jiawan Village, Southern China
2. School Girls Walking across a Plank on the Wall of the 16th Century Galle Fort, Sri Lanka
3. 125-Mile Journey to a Boarding School Through the Mountains in Pili, China
(Image credits: Imaginachina/RexFeatures and Reuters/Vivek Prakash)
Next in our series is Lesson 2 –