Recently we (At Anchor Center) were being interviewed about a grant application and the question I was asked was, “When you go to bed at night, what makes you most proud?” I loved that question.
I am, of course, very proud of the building we have created in the Stapleton neighborhood. It was designed specifically for how young children with vision impairments learn. We knew it would be good. We had no idea it would be beautiful, win design awards, and be published in national and international magazines. We still get calls about the design and how it impacts children’s learning. The thing that’s most remarkable is how much of a teacher it is . . . making navigating so easy for the children that they don’t have to spend their time figuring out where they are – they can get to the business of playing and learning and being typical. We are often asked, “Where are the blind children?”, because they are so comfortable there.
They are taught and cared for by a competent and nurturing staff . . . but the thing I’m most proud of would be the stories:
One story being Kerry’s daughter, Elie, who asked her mom, “Do you wish I could see better?” And when Kerry said, “Yes, it would be easier for you.” Elie said, “I don’t because I like who I am and if I could see better I wouldn’t be me.”
And the story about a little girl from Malaysia who was having a horrible time being in music – which is unusual for our kiddos. She’d just come back from a visit and she cried every time she had to listen to music. So a couple of people on our staff had the good instincts to look up Malaysian music on their iPads. The tones are completely different – so they played her native music for her – she calmed down immediately and they were gradually able to get her to participate in the class and with our music.
And how honest the children are – Many years ago we were given a grant by Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities and we were going to get the check at the McDonalds near our old building. They wanted the children to come along. We loaded the children in the van that we had at the time and went over. The owner, Getta, got us all set up with burgers, fries and drinks and then said, is there anything else you need? Justin said, “Yea, we came for the money!”
When families first enter our programs, they are often disheartened and overwhelmed by their your child's diagnosis. Anchor Center is there to educate the entire family about life with a child who has visual impairments. Our caring and compassionate staff includes teachers, therapists, psychologists and others who have dedicated their careers to working with children. Three members of our staff are parents of Anchor Center graduates.
One mother of a preschooler in our program recently commented, "Before we knew Anchor Center, we were in the dark, not knowing where we were, what could happen, what needed to be done or what even could be done. We were full of anxiety about our child's vision and future. Anchor Center is a great provision of support and hope that has made Serges so confident . . . so free!"
There’s a book of joy, peppered with some sorrow in Anchor Center. How can I not feel like the luckiest person in the world to have had a small part in its success for the last few years?
I’ve had a job where everyone else does the work and I get the credit. So, thanks again for giving me this award. What I would only say is that we all know who the real professionals are who show excellence every day . . . the folks who should get this and every other award. They are the parents and children, the clients of every nonprofit. They are the families who get up every day, who never get a break, who entrust their loved ones to so many nonprofits. Even though we play an important part in their lives, we are only a small part. They do the hard work of labor and love and gutting it out – and then they give us the privilege of being a part of that journey with them.