Jacob Hartshorne, 22, of Mount Pleasant suffers from a rare syndrome called CHARGE syndrome. CHARGE syndrome is defined as “A recognizable (genetic) pattern of birth defects which occurs in about one in every 9-10,000 births worldwide. It is an extremely complex syndrome, involving extensive medical and physical difficulties that differ from child to child,” (chargesyndrome.org/about-charge.asp).
Hartshorne can’t understand or speak language. He can understand some sign language and can also sign some as well. His main method of communication is using PECs. This is a picture system in which he can ask for things he wants, places to go, or things to do.
“Jacob has some difficultly with balance and is uneasy when walking alone-unassisted-on uneven ground (stepping up on curbs, walking through grass, etc.) He has poor depth perception-sometimes he thinks he has to step over cracks in the sidewalk,” a caretaker, Sabrina Galla said.
Hartshorne has had people working with him since infancy, but usually only a few people. Since he moved into his house (next door to mom and dad-Tim and Nancy both psychology professors), he has had 24 hour care, the reason for so many more staff members. Tim and Nancy wanted to give Jacob the opportunities that any normal 22 year old has, within reason. In buying a house for Jacob, they have secured his future, when his parents are gone. They know that he wont end up being put into a home and that he’ll always be in an environment where he is comfortable and he is understood.
“Jacob is my inspiration. He has taught me to be very patient with others, and he really makes me think about what I’m thankful for in life. You never really think about those things until you’re in this kind of position where you’re around somebody who constantly has to have somebody helping them with simple tasks,” Galla said.
Stacey Walker is a 19 year old, who has not had the privilege of being a “so-called” normal young adult. She lives in a home called Mary’s Mantle- a home for pregnant women that have no where else to go. “We allow women who are pregnant to stay here for up to a year,” Pat Parker, a house mother at Mary’s Mantle said. “After a year, the women are still able to keep in touch with us, but we can’t allow allow them to live here anymore because we must let other ladies into the house too”.
Stacey is the youngest in the house and the least far along, being 4 and a half months into her pregnancy. Stacey got pregnant and lived with her boyfriends parents, until the fighting began between her and the, what she calls “babies daddy”. After she was kicked out she went to a shelter called The Salvation Army Demby Center in Detroit. “We were only allowed to eat three times a day, be up and out by 9 A.M., water was contaminated and slept on hard beds. There were two to six people in a room, which is where people would steal a lot of your stuff,” Stacey said.
“So after that I moved to Mary’s Mantle which was a big change. The six of us that stay here have already became such close friends. I don’t know what I’m going to do when they leave”.
“Mary’s Mantle helps a lot. It’s a very positive environment, we go to church every Sunday and we learn from the other girls with their stories,” Stacey said. “Every girl here has a story, and some nights we’ll talk about them with a house mother as a group, which really helps us open up and share what we’re feeling”.
As the days, weeks and months remaining for Stacey at Mary’s Mantle, she will learn how to be a proper mother to her child, keep a job and keep a home. “I hope I can do it, I hope I can be a good mother to my child and live a safe, happy and successful life”.
When I first went into Moore 105, I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know what Elizabeth did, or what made her so important. After listening to her story, I was moved and very impressed with the work she did for this person she has never met.
Thao is a woman that lives out in Vietnam, and has birth defects relating to Agent Orange which is a chemical defoliant spread over Vietnam by the military during vietnam war. When Elizabeth met Thao she was intrigued immediately by her ambitious personality. When they asked Thao what she wanted more than anything in the world, it was 300 dollars for books for her library that was in a hut filled with fertilizers and maneuer. Elizabeth promised that she would try to achieve this goal for Thao, even though she didn’t have money herself to give her. She fundraised books, and money to give to Thao when she got home so she wouldn’t break her promise. Elizabeth found that she wanted to do this to give her something to look forward to and keep her mind occupied after the her sister had taken her own life. When she made the promise Elizabeth said “I’m going to do everything I can to build you a new library” even though she had no money at the time. Thao said “I love you forever”. She thought that the guilt she felt from her sisters death could be rectified by building this library for Thao.
A crew came together and after a long process, a library was built for Thao and the children of the town. Over 3,000 books, a new laptop and a statue was given to Thao for the library. The statue said, “The good leaves cover the torn leaves and the torn leaves cover the shredded leaves” which was a quote that meant a lot to Thao, so they gave her a statue that would mean a lot to her for that reason.
As I listened to her speak about her experiences over in Vietnam and with Thao and the building of the library, I was moved. I wanted to do something to help somebody in need as well. I hope someday I could do something that would change somebody’s life like Elizabeth has changed Thao’s life forever.
Sister Mary Rachel is an active member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan. She has taken her final vows to dedicate her life to God. “Our sisters bind themselves by vow to observe the three evangelical counsels of poverty, charity and obedience,and to serve the poor, sick and ignorant”, (www.rsmofalma.org)
Sister Mary Rachel is a doctor in Internal Medicine and works at the hospital, and at the office at an old catholic church. Most of the sisters teach together in seminaries or in primary schools or work in a hospital. They all together also work in common work like caring for the convents by cleaning, care of the land and by cooking.
“My life is about my dedication to God, and to be perfect like the Virgin Mary,” Sister Mary Rachel said. “Nobody is perfect, I know that, but Mary was and we aspire to be like her”.
There are a total of six sisters in her convent in Alma, Michigan who have taken their final vows. They come from different backgrounds, two of which who weren’t always catholic, one of which who was a Pagan and chose to change later in life. Together they cook, clean and praise God in the way they we’re ‘meant to’, by choosing their life path to be a nun. “We all do our fair share here. We take turns making dinner, cleaning up dinner and so on. We all have very busy lives, considering that we’re all a form of doctor,” Sister Mary Rachel said. “We try our best to sit around the kitchen table together to wind down our day”.
“The goal of the Institute is the praise and worship of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for the boundless mercy which has been revealed through the works of creation, redemption, and sanctification. The Sisters profess the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, as well as a fourth vow of service.”