She is only 8. But some nights Ava turns to her mum and whispers, “I wish I remembered what you look like.”
She has wide blue eyes and a light bulb smile that leaves you happier, just for having seen it. If you meet eight-year-old Ava – and I hope you will when you visit – her hand will reach up and gently tuck itself into yours. And you will know. Ava is miles from what might have been, because while other babies were exploring their worlds, the light was fading from hers.
Ava would be blind before the age of two.
The creamy brown birthmarks that dotted her skin foretold tumours growing in her body. They foretold a part of her tomorrows as well.
The other part of Ava’s tomorrows lies in your hands now. So if as you read, you feel that a little blind girl called Ava and the work we do for her at ChildVision is something you can put your heart behind, please give as generously as you can.
In a moment I’ll explain the good you’ll do. First, about Ava…
“Run your fingers through your hair,” the doctors told her mum and dad. “Picture your hair is your brain. Ava has pre-cancerous tumours everywhere your fingers are. And on her spine and on her kidneys. At any time any one of them could grow into cancer.”
There were rounds of chemotherapy. Seizures. “Family time” meant specialists and endless tests and waiting rooms. And the child who could no longer see day or night came to endure the surprise sting of needles and the slow nausea of medication.
She stopped sleeping, stopped speaking. She started to regress. Friends moved on. Later as her brother and sister went off to school, Ava tapped ‘goodbye’ at the window. They always tapped back. Ava’s mum began to worry her last child – for however long she had – would be the one left behind, in the dark. No place of her own to go. I pray this never happens.
But every year since 2009 ChildVision has met with savage cuts in State funding that threaten to drop the bottoms out of the lives of our children and their families. Children who aren’t “just” blind. Children who may also face massive physical and mental challenges from things like cerebral palsy and epilepsy and hydrocephalus. For them, every day is a victory.
ChildVision is our only national education centre for Ireland’s blind children – the only place for kids like Ava, ages 1 to 21.
Government funding has dwindled to about half of what we need. If you will take Ava’s hand now, and give what you can to help fill the gap between what is and what can be.
Donations will fund in-classroom hoists, specialised chairs and positioning equipment for Ava’s friends – kids for whom sitting upright as they learn, or reaching for a therapeutic toy, is a dream. Or your monthly pledge of even €10 or €21 could help them achieve more than they or their families ever imagined – supporting everything from physiotherapy to Ava’s favourite, equine therapy.
It’s something else your donation today will fund – teaching kids to ‘see’ with more than their eyes. Most people aren’t aware that being blind means different things to different kids. Some, for example, can still distinguish faint degrees of light or dark. Some are totally blind and have no light perception, like Ava. Still, she feels the wet nuzzle of the horses in the stable. She rings the chimes and senses the crunch of gravel or the squish of mud on our sensory trail. She is expert at our “Smell of the Day” in the classroom. She hears the soft cluck of chickens when she feeds them.
“Ava just can’t wait to brush the ponies and have her lesson. She’s so proud of herself. Her world might be dark but at ChildVision it’s full of colour in a different way.”
— Ava’s mum
Special therapies are needed for Ava and her friends at ChildVision. You can imagine there are things like suction machines to keep some of our kids breathing, and lifesaving skills could be needed at any moment. You help with those too, and believe me they are vital.
But we keep those things in the background as much as possible.
Because too often, the world focusses on what these kids can’t do. Your kindness today lets us continue to focus on what they can. Children who need to can stay in our residential centre on campus. Others ride one of ChildVision’s minibuses to school each day. A FETAC certified vocational centre helps older kids aged 18 to 23 to gain even more independence.
Please visit our campus here in Drumcondra. We are open, honest and proud to show you how hard your gift will work. Kids like Ava will be delighted to welcome you to the ChildVision family.
All you have to do is show a little faith… reach out, and take her hand.