It’s been a little over a year since we last sat down with Collierville native, Ellen Humerickhouse, who at the time began construction on an educational outreach program for Haitian children with special needs. As the founder of La Limye Ministry, a Christ-centered children’s home, Ellen’s plate has been full serving both her eleven orphaned girls, two of which have special needs, in addition to assisting the people of her Haitian village by building a special needs school on the same property as her fully secured children’s home. The school was a necessary build because many Haitians believe children with disabilities are cursed, and therefore cast out of society, hidden away in their houses with little to no interaction with others. While Ellen didn’t know the number of students that would eventually attend the school, she acted on faith and La Limye [translated, “The Light”] Learning Center opened its doors to 24 special needs students in June.
Although Ellen only knew one child with special needs before opening the school, she knew there was a need for this type of facility. “I’ve been working in my village for six years now and I’ve only known of one child with special needs along my road,” says Ellen, “but I just knew there was a need for my two girls [Noviette and Ketchina] and others nearby.” Along the two-mile stretch of dirt road that runs through the village, ten children sat alone, famished, believing they were unwanted, until news spread by word-of-mouth that the facility was opening. Those ten children, along with twelve additional children nearby, learned that at La Limye they would receive nourishment in every sense of the word.
“I have to talk to the child and keep telling them every single day how beautiful they are, and how they’re a child of God; How they’re worth more than rubies and eventually they will hear that enough and will believe it!” – Ellen Humerickhouse
“I’ve learned that there’s not much I can say to the parents to change their mind [about the children being cursed],” remarks Ellen. “I have to talk to the child and keep telling them every single day how beautiful they are, and how they’re a child of God; how they’re worth more than rubies and eventually they will hear that enough and will believe it! Some of them are starting to get really attached to me and the teachers because they feel love, some for the first time, and because they know that when they’re in our care, they get a plate full of food. It’s going to be a really good ministry because in just these first few weeks we’re already noticing the kids are starting to feel safe and are learning!”
Similar to the experience of Collierville students, a small yellow bus travels the village road to pick up all the students from their homes before returning back to La Limye. After the initial months of assessing each child, the school officially began coursework in September. The classes are broken down into three groups: pre-academic, academic, and post-academic.
Students from toddlers to adolescents with disabilities such as hearing impaired, no verbal skills, etc., and who are not prepared for academic learning, are in the pre-academic class. Over time in this class, educational skills such as letters, numbers, and basic foundational training will occur. The primary focus for these students is therapy, interactive songs, sensory work, feeding, and simply showing them love.
The academic class is for teenagers and young adults that have ADHD, down syndrome, limited vocabulary, etc. Students in this class are learning academic foundational training. The post-academic class is a mixture of young adults and adults with conditions such as hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy, autism, and down syndrome. These students are learning life skills such as washing clothes, cooking food, and counting money to make purchases, making day-to-day life easier. The student’s ages range from three to thirty-five years old!
“At the end of the day, we want to nourish them with food because sometimes the only way to show someone Jesus is by giving them food,” says Ellen. “If they have an empty stomach and they’re starving, they can’t think or focus on anything else and it affects things like their behavior. So when the kids come in the morning, they eat and then they have school. We also want to feed them the word of God and make sure that is poured into their lives! We want to feed them with good words, to feel our love, that they are worthy of encouragement. Whether it’s love with Gospel or love through food. Just love. My hope and desire for this school would be to change the mindset of our village about children with special needs. I really hope that by us pouring love and care into these children, that will show their caregivers and everyone that they aren’t cursed by the devil or an evil spirit, and they are not mistakes. My hope and dream is that our little village’s mindset will see the worth in these kids, accept and treat these kids just like they do any other children. We’ve got to help them. Now that I’ve seen children starved to death, and seen unexplainable poverty, because I’ve seen that – I cannot turn a blind eye.”
story | Anna Bell
photos | Ellen Humerickhouse