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When 8-year-old Maia moves around St. John’s Anglican Primary School in Belize City, there is not much space for her wheelchair. More often than not, because of the school’s poor flooring, stairways or other obstacles, it’s easier for her to get on her hands and knees and crawl.
Maia has spina bifida, a debilitating spinal birth defect that prevents her from walking.
Little can be done to change Maia’s health or the conditions at her 300-pupil school in the impoverished nation of Belize. But a caring group of first-graders, led by teacher Amy Hoffman at Unity Charter School in New Jersey, have made life easier for Maia.
Ms. Hoffman is the daughter of BSU’s Dr. Jo Hoffman, associate dean of the College of Education and Allied Studies, who learned about Maia’s condition from Dr. Lisa Battaglino, the dean of the college.
In January, Ms. Hoffman’s class raised $730 in the community to buy a walker, gloves, kneepads and other supplies for Maia, making it easier for her to get around and continue going to school.
“This teacher stepped up to the plate so quickly and raised the money so quickly, I didn't have to pursue it further,” says Dr. Battaglino. Dr. Theresa Coogan, BSU associate professor of counselor education, delivered the supplies when she visited the school in April.
Dr. Battaglino, who has traveled to Belize for the past eight years with Dr. David Ostroth, former BSU vice president of student affairs, said she was delighted. “It's going to make attending school possible, and she can now do it with much more dignity and with much less pain as a result of this incredible effort by Amy Hoffman and her students,” says Dr. Battaglino.
More than a dozen Bridgewater State students visit Belize yearly, splitting their time between making improvements to facilities and teaching.
“We make efforts all the time to improve everything, and the floor in her [Maia’s] room is an important thing that needs improving, but it's probably a low priority, even though it sounds important, compared to some of the things we have to do,” Dr. Battaglino says. (Steve Ide, University News)