Early in my pregnancy, I caught chickenpox which damaged my daughter’s eyes. Chandis is afflicted with pigmentary retinopathy, which means her visual acuity is only 8/18 in each of her eyes.
Growing up, at times she would walk into people or objects and injure herself and had to use people’s voices to identify them.
Yet being different has never stopped her. She was in the choir, she played the drum and she was in different groups in high school. As you can see in the photo, she is an awesome singer and at the moment she is writing her own songs – she has such a beautiful heart and knows the right word for every situation.
My happiness in seeing her progressing
Through everything she would always keep trying and motivated me as her mom to never give up. Sometimes she used to cry when her sight meant that she could not do her school work, yet in exams she always found a way to place in the top five.
Today she lives in the United States with her father. She is doing exceptionally well there and is a High Honour Roll student working hard towards getting a scholarship to go to college.
I am so happy to see her progress. When she was smaller people used to say I was lazy because I was a stay at home mom, but I did not care what they said because I knew my daughter needed me.
Always encouraging, never putting down
Her father and I, we made sure never to put her down or to tell her anything negative. Rather than pity her we drove her to do her best. I always told her, “Your eyes are sick but nothing is wrong with your brain. I will be your eyes so you just tell me and I will write it.”
There were times we would cry together and at times I had to be her watchdog most places we went. One of my best moments in life was being awarded a certificate for being a helpful mom.
Most people in Jamaica are unkind to children with disabilities, yet these children and their families need all of us to show our love and support. I am so glad for the sacrifices I have made for her, and thinking about how proud I am makes me cry. I just know that for Chandis the best is yet to come.
Melanie and daughter Chandis were among families who shared their stories in response to our #iAmAbleJA campaign with the Digicel Jamaica Foundation and the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities. You can see more stories on our Facebook and Instagram pages. #iAmAbleJA urges Government to protect and promote the lives of Jamaican children with disabilities by enforcing the Disabilities Act 2014; and invites families to register with the JCPD to access benefits.