One Voice Among Many

Partnerships with groups like the International Wildlife Fellowship Foundation (IWFF) allow SCI Foundation to greatly expand the impact of its successful Safari-Care Bell Family Blue Bag program around the world.  And, while this partnership has helped IWFF reach out to help hundreds of those in need through the Blue Bag program, sometimes it all comes down to a single face and a single story – in this instance, a young developmentally challenged girl living at the Camphill School Hermanus, where IWFF did a recent Blue Bag drop sponsored by the Bell Family and SCI Foundation.

Jamie-Lee is a true child of Camphill – indeed, she is often viewed as the poster child for Camphill School Hermanus.  The daughter of deeply impoverished African parents, Jamie Lee was brought to the School at the age of two and abandoned by her family. Since then, the School is the only home she has known and the caring Camphill community, the only family she has had.

Over the 15 years that she has lived at the School, several staff members, in turn, have registered to be her foster parents, making her eligible to receive a government grant, which is paid to Camphill. At first, as a toddler, she required a great deal of personal attention and was cared for within the family unit of one of the housemothers at the School. However, by the age of four, as soon as she was able to function more independently, she was transferred to the School’s boarding house with the other residential pupils.

Jamie-Lee has Down Syndrome and when she first arrived at Camphill School, she was a sick little girl. She was undersized and suffered from severe respiratory ill-health and an allergy to dairy products; she was not potty trained, couldn’t talk and had only just begun to walk. However, surrounded as she was by nurturing loving-kindness, Jamie-Lee blossomed. From the word go, despite her health problems, she was a ray of sunshine. She was full of smiles and loved to be with other children.

Once she had learned to talk, her favorite occupation became singing. Even at an early age, she had a deep, resonant voice. She was good at copying others and was quick to learn new skills. She has always loved to help with domestic chores around the boarding house and is an enthusiastic participant in whatever is going on at school.

Once or twice a year, a street collection is held in Hermanus for the benefit of Camphill School and it is one Jamie-Lee’s great delights to accompany one of the staff members or young volunteers at the School, to shake a tin. Her winning personality and beaming smile ensure that, at the end of the day, her tin is always the fullest!

Over the years, Jamie-Lee has developed a caring and outgoing personality. She is quick to help the younger children and to reach out to everyone: visitors from near and far, classmates and staff members. As a result of the love with which she has been surrounded at Camphill, she is full of self-confidence and does not shy away from new challenges. She receives speech therapy on an on-going basis and is an energetic participant in art therapy.

During the School holidays, she usually goes home with one of her classmates or a staff member and everyone comments on the joy and light she brings with her.

Typical of the kind of person Jamie-Lee is, was the role she played in our School nativity play. She took the relatively minor part of one of the inn-keepers who turned Mary and Joseph away at the door. Not only did her booming voice stop them dead in their tracks, but she also busied herself with correcting any of the other cast members who might have forgotten their lines or had come in at the wrong time. But most of all, she led the singing of every carol with lusty enthusiasm.

Jamie-Lee has a strong imagination and loves both listening to and telling stories to all who are prepared to listen. But, whenever she is missing from the house, you will be sure to find her swinging in the playground, or riding her bike, singing at the top of her voice.

It is the School’s strong desire to ensure that this child of Camphill will be loved and protected within the community where she continues to brighten the lives of all who come within her sunshiny orbit.

About Camphill School

Camphill School, a member of the world-wide Camphill Movement, is located in the Hemel en Aarde Valley near Hermanus. For the past 66 years, it has provided love, care, education and acceptance to generations of children with severe intellectual disabilities, many of whom are also physically challenged. The School’s driving principle has always been notion that, irrespective of their disabilities, each child is a perfect spiritual being, deserving of love, respect and nurturing.