Beverly Hoffman, SCN, smiles as she remembers the progress of children with disabilities with whom she has worked as a physical therapist in Belize over the past 14 years. Many of these children are now integrated into society and have a chance to lead a dignified and productive life.
In a brightly painted building in Belize City, Sister Beverly spends her days working with children with special-needs at the Inspiration Center, an organization offering both medical and community based rehabilitation services.
Sister Beverly rejoices at the changes she sees in the ways that society considers persons with disabilities. When she first began visiting children in their homes, she noticed that while the children were loved and cared for, they were often left in a back room with little stimulation and virtually no chance to interact with the larger society.
Over the years, services have increased and Belizeans have been empowered with knowledge and skills to advocate for those with special needs.
Changing the system
Sister Beverly herself, has brought about considerable systemic change for persons with disabilities. It is what excites her the most. “I’ve seen parents go from passive acceptance, to being very strong advocates for their child to have an education, to have quality of life, to be included in the community, be it scouting, in church, in civil ceremonies and celebrations,”she says. Some parents travel by bus for four hours each way so their child can attend one hour of therapy. “I’m inspired by the courage parents have, the perseverance they have, the love they have,” reflects Sister Beverly.
Community and hope
With her ministry an intense one at times, she treasures the support of her local community of Sisters. They gather often for prayer, conversation and celebration.“The local community that I go back to after a hard day of work is life-giving for me.” Sister Beverly says that her prayer life and trust in God is what sustains her.
“Where Hope Lives.” Sister Beverly says she loves this motto of the Inspiration Center, “I really do feel that as women religious, we are called to cultivate hope wherever we are, in whatever situation. For me that is working in Belize with children with special needs and their families.
Advocacy for persons with disabilities
Sister shared the following poem
She was brought to me
from a back bedroom,
eyes closed, hair neatly combed and
braided into pigtails.
A bundle; Her body flexed,
unable to stretch out to the full
length of her eight year old frame.
I saw the club feet, twisted
grotesquely, attached to lower
limbs that bent too much at the knees.
I noticed the flexed elbows
unable to straighten,
And the small fisted hands, unable
to grasp my little finger.
Her head was too floppy,
going all over the place until
I cradled it with the palm of my hand, and
I met her gaze.
beautiful brown eyes.
Then a rush of anger came
over me, the regret
of so much that
could have been done,
much earlier in her
Then a gut wrenching humility came.
How the little I knew
and took for granted,
could make such a difference in her world.
I paused, as I sat her up on the couch,
perhaps for the first time,
in a very long time.
Her audible sigh let me know
there was potential, there were dreams,
there were possibilities within.
And I looked into those brown eyes,
and remembered, Christ was there too …
to embrace Him in the painful reality
Of the poverty Just revealed.
Beverly Hoffman, SCN