We would like to share this story from one of our beneficiaries. It's stories like these that inspire the work of Elevate Hope Foundation. We hope this will increase your understanding and the importance of the funding that EHF endeavors to provide.
To look at Winnie, she seems like many other ten year olds. She loves to run, jump, play games, enjoys gymnastics, and has a smile that will steal your heart. Her smile is her shield because it conceals a past that is a testament to her resiliency from a life that thankfully many of us will never know. Winnie was the fourth child born to parents who were both heroin addicts. She was born addicted and has struggled with the common effects of drug and alcohol exposure including tremors, irritability, failure to thrive, inability to soothe, learning problems, and family instability.
Winnie's mother recognized how "out of control" things had become and she sought help. She found a way to become clean and sober, the first step she needed to take in an effort to save herself and her children from the life that had been created for them. Winnie's parents divorced when her father was unable to make the same commitment to become clean and sober.
Life was a daily struggle for the family, there was a shortage of food, clothing, and eventually they were homeless. Winnie's life continued to spiral downward and her emotional state became more and more fragile.
Winnie entered public school academically, socially, and emotionally unprepared. She did not know how to play, had no idea of what taking turns meant, could not sit still, and did not know colors, shapes, or other things children her age knew. Her behavior worsened. Suspensions and ejections from traditional school models were common events. Winnie's behavior was taxing to her teachers, peers, and her own family.
The question became: Where does one get help for someone so young? Winnie's mom found the help she desperately needed at Vista's Julia Ann Singer Center and its Non-Public School. This fragile little girl finally found a place where she could begin to heal. Her family was connected with many of Vista's resources that they needed to survive, including Wraparound Services. Skilled and dedicated teachers, together with therapists, offered a proven program of education and mental health services in a nurturing, non-judgmental environment. Winnie's wounds began to heal and she began to approach learning as a life-long process.
The road to recovery has been bumpy; yet, Vista continues to support Winnie's family and the immeasurable progress she has made in her academic, social, and emotional growth. Winnie is now reading at grade level, she can compute basic math and is beginning to tackle more advanced math concepts. She has made friends and has been invited to parties and even to sleepovers. Her family has secured housing and her mom is working a steady job. Winnie will continue to grow and Vista's services will continue to support her because that is what we do!
Child's name and image has been changed to protect confidentiality.