As Chair of HDFS I treasure the stories my colleagues share, often told in passing in the hall.
Lori Skibbe brought tears to my eyes. A specialist in language and literacy, Lori was one of three experts invited to present five days of workshops on working with children in Ukraine who have special needs. Over the five days attendance grew to 90 teachers and parent participants who spread the word about the workshops. As part of her presentations, Lori brought two “Augmentative and Alternative Communication” (AAC) devices already programmed into Ukrainian.
Near the end of her stay, Lori was talking to a young mother with a 7-year old daughter who had never spoken. Lori said, “I bet you she’d say “hello” to you if she pushed this button.” The little girl pushed the ACC button and, laughing and smiling said, “Pryvit!” Her mom exclaimed, “She gets it! She understands!” as she enveloped her delighted daughter in a huge hug. Lori left one AAC device with the local school system and the other with the group of parents so others can see what is possible and have hope.
Another conversation with Dr. Esther Onaga painted a vivid picture of this summer’s study away experience she led on the island of Hawaii. Kumu Paul Neves hosted 22 participants and faculty in his family home which is on land designated as Hawaiian Homelands. (“Kumu” means teacher in the deepest sense.) At 3:30 in the morning, the whole group arose from their mattresses on the floor of the Hula Halau space and piled into a yellow school bus for a trip to the easternmost point of the island. There they walked across a lava field to celebrate the rising of the sun, clapping and chanting for almost an hour in small groups spread along the shore. The photograph is of Kumu Neves’ student and friend Komo gazing out at this beautiful sunrise.
Returning along the trail, the students planted coconut seedlings in the barren lava, using dirt they had carried with them. The students experienced how fervently native Hawaiians value always giving back to the land (“aina”). More than one student talked about wanting to come back and see the coconut trees that they had planted.
As alumni and friends of HDFS, you too know many stories. These stories are why we believe so passionately in our legacy and our work. I look forward to hearing more of them from you and sharing them with our wonderful HDFS community.