Ashley’s Story: The Inspiration Center – Helping Kids in Belize
In the past year, Ashley has moved to Belize City and taken on a huge and important job at Belize’s new Inspiration Center. I love following her on Facebook and seeing all her pictures and observations about living in Belize’s gritty capital. She has an amazing ability to see the positive through the negative and I keep telling her that she needs to start a blog.
A quote from the other day “Today I met an 8 year old boy who likes to go tarantula hunting despite the fact he said “Ms. Ashley, I’m only afraid of 2 things, spiders and clowns”. I’m pretty sure I have the best job in the world.”
She’s a busy lady (working, training for the Placencia “End of the World” half-marathon and getting used to a new place) but I’m lucky that she wrote this post for SanPedroScoop. It’s good stuff. Here’s Ashley (who also gave me a rundown, recently, of her budget living in Belize City.)
Oh…and the photos were taken at a recent “Fun Day”…she’s not usually in a dunk tank.
Let me take a brief moment to introduce myself. My name is Ashley Kane and I’m originally from Bismarck, North Dakota. I have been a speech language pathologist for 9 years, primarily working with children with disabilities in their homes and at school.
One could say I suffer from wanderlust, as I’ve lived in 8 different states in 9 years and haven’t quite settled down yet. My latest move was probably the most drastic and the biggest shock to my family, “mom, dad, I’m going to look for a job as a speech language pathologist in Belize” (insert bug eyes, coughing, choking, and eye rolling).
Let me take you back…..
In June 2013, my entire family visited San Pedro on vacation, yes, ALL 11 of us. That vacation could be a completely different blog post; if you’ve ever been on family vacation you can probably relate. After a particularly awful winter of lots of snow and sub zero temperatures you can imagine I fell in love with the heat and humidity of San Pedro the second I reached the Tropic Air terminal. As a person who likes to move around, I immediately started thinking, “I should totally move here”, “ I could easily live here”, “I wonder if I could find a job”.
I searched the internet for programs for children with disabilities in Belize, speech therapy in Belize, therapy centers in Belize and for the most part came up empty handed. My search told me 3 things: 1. there were NO speech language pathologists in Belize 2. there were not many programs for children with disabilities in the country and 3. there was a brand new center being built in Belize City, “The Inspiration Center”, the first of its kind, non-government organization providing physical and speech therapy, community based rehabilitation, basic medical services and social support for children with disabilities (birth to 16) and their families.
SIGN ME UP!! I immediately contacted the person in charge and the rest is history. On April 28th, 2014 I packed three suitcases, said my goodbyes, shed some tears and jumped on the plane.
On my first day of work, the reality of what I signed up for settled in. I had just become the first and only “licensed” speech language pathologist in the entire county (what was I thinking??!!??). Nothing I read , mentally rehearsed or told myself could have prepared me for the job that was before me…
When I arrived on my first day, I walked up to a beautiful yellow, white, and blue two story building.
When I entered the building, I saw a typical outpatient rehabilitation center. Separate offices for the doctor, nurse, social worker, physical, occupational, and speech therapies, director, administrative staff etc. There is also space for a daycare and an after school program, that will one day be up and running.
After getting over the initial shock of walking into an almost empty room with no therapy supplies, I quickly started work. The list of kids I was supposed to see for initial assessment was a mile long and new families were calling everyday to schedule their child’s evaluation. The moment my first patient entered my room, I knew The Inspiration Center was a very special place; finally, a facility devoted to children with disabilities and their families. Like I mentioned before, The Inspiration Center is a brand new concept in Belize. Although there are pediatric medical facilities in the country, until now, there has not been rehabilitation clinic that provides physical AND speech therapy while also providing basic medical services and community based rehabilitation.
Since May, the clinic has seen over 100 different children with a variety of diagnoses. Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, phonological disorders, hydrocephalus, specific language delay, stuttering, dandy walker syndrome, the list is endless. I am happy to report that we have an ambitious staff trying to develop new programs, provide outreach clinics in all districts of the country and are determined to keep the center alive! We encourage and invite medical and therapy teams from different countries to visit and help us provide services that we, as a non profit are not capable of offering on our own. I am fortunate to work along-side people that have the same passion and goals. We all come together for one common purpose: giving hope to the children with disabilities in Belize.
Although you likely read The San Pedro Scoop for the latest and greatest in San Pedro and Rebecca’s other fun adventures, I encourage you to take a minute, well, maybe 5-10 minutes, and check out the Inspiration Center’s site. I hope by sharing the story of my move to Belize City, I can help create awareness of The Inspiration Center and the services we provide. Belize is SO much more than beautiful beaches, maya ruins, cave tubing, and rum punch; there is a whole different world waiting at The Inspiration Center!