Saturday, October 22, 2011

Getting to know me :)

So do any of you know me, personally ? I don't think we've met - other than advocating for the children on Reece's Rainbow, do we have anything else in common ? Why don't I share my story, so we aren't complete strangers. I am Jenny, born in 1963, in a town called Boston, in the county of Lincolnshire in England. I lived for the first 20 something years of my life in a village called Sutterton, about 6 miles away from Boston. My first real job was working as a clerical assistant for the tax office - not the most exciting job in the world - and after about 5 years I had had enough. I applied to a volunteer agency, wanting to do something completely different, and found myself at Meldreth Manor School, a residential school for children with cerebral palsy. I was there for a year - a full time, live-in volunteer (they paid me, I think 14.50 pounds pocket money per week). I have to say that my year at Meldreth was life changing - I had never known anyone with a disability before, but getting to know the kids at Meldreth was the best thing I had ever done. As my year at Meldreth was coming to an end, I knew I wanted to do more with disabled kids - but what ? I heard about an agency called BUNAC, which recruited British students (and the occasional non-student) to work summer jobs in the USA. It had always my dream to visit the US - so I interviewed with the agency, and waited impatiently to see what happened. They placed me as a counselor at a summer camp in New Jersey - a camp catering for children with all kinds of disabilities. Did I mention that my year at Meldreth had been life changing ? That was nothing compared to my time at Elks Camp Moore - absolutely my favorite place on earth. To cut a long story short, I worked at the camp for ten years, flying from England to New Jersey every summer - and finding jobs in England to tide me over and fund the next summer's trip. I could go on and on about Elks Camp Moore - but I won't (as much as I want to) :) If you live in New Jersey - or know anyone who does - and have a child aged 7-18 with any kind of special need - send them to Elks Camp Moore !! They can attend for a week - free of charge - it's totally supported by the New Jersey Elks - trust me, it's the best fun they'll ever have. My last year at ECM was 1995 - but I still think of it often - the place, the staff - and the kids, of course - oh, the memories !! Best place ever.

As I mentioned - between summers I had to go back to England and support myself and fund the following year's airfare etc - so I worked a variety of jobs. Mostly within my new field - I worked in a SENSE group home with deaf/blind ladies; I worked at Ingfield Manor School with children with cerebral palsy; spent another couple of years at Meldreth; worked at Broughton House College with teens with autism/behavioral problems; worked as a freelance nanny, helping families out on a short term basis. Then there were the other jobs - as an aide in a nursing home; a worker in a salad packing factory; office work in the headquarters of Interflora. I basically did whatever I had to do in order to get back to camp, and to "my" kids - some kids were my campers year after year after year - and to say that the year I quit camp was heartbreaking is an understatement. It had to happen, eventually, though - and amazingly, as soon as I knew I wasn't going back, I met my husband-to-be, Randall, online.
We "met" in May of 1996 - were married in June of 1997, and I moved over to the US to join him in November 1997 (after waiting to get immigration papers sorted out).
My first job in the US was as a relay operator for Communication Services for the Deaf; then I worked for 2 years at Children's Care Hospital and School. In 2000 I left in order to open my own business - Little House Childcare. In 2003 our son Nathaniel was born, and our lives were changed again. He's now 8 years old, in 3rd grade, and playing soccer at every opportunity. He loves to hear stories about the Reece's Rainbow kids - and would love for us to adopt a sibling, but sadly that won't happen. Instead, I donate whenever possible, and advocate as best I can - as well as reading many adoption blogs and cheering families on every step of the way :)
That's my life in a nutshell - and well done if you've managed to get to the end - I could've gone on a lot longer, but figured most readers would give up before they reached the end of a ten page essay :) I promise from now on I'll get back on subject - but maybe now you have more of an inkling of why I feel so strongly about advocating for "my" Reeces's Rainbow kids :)

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