Silvia (San Pedro Sula, Honduras)

She came in for evaluation, head down, lacking confidence but filled with hope that maybe these people who came from America might be able to help her speak. Silvia was born with a cleft lip and palate. She was unable to have either birth defect corrected until she was in late childhood. It was not until she was 11 years of age that she found a visiting Interplast surgical team from the U.S. and could get these defects corrected. By that time the pattern of social rejection and debilitating speech was well established.

Silvia had other life traumas too. Poor and lacking much education, she struggled to live each day. She had found a strong faith in God and her church was the one strong support she had.

This remarkable young woman attended the first speech camp ever held in Honduras. She came alone, as she had no one who could be her teacher. Gladys, a delightful woman who had taken the Professionals course given by EARTHSPEAK a few days earlier, stepped forward and volunteered to be Silvia's teacher. This was no small gift.Silvia and Gladys would need to work daily for many months. Dedication was required.

Gladys and Silvia spent the weeklong speech camp learning to work together. Then they set to work in earnest. They spent each day working 10 or 15 minutes using the carefully prepared manual
written in Spanish. Four months later, a visiting EARTHSPEAK team came to review the patients' progress.

Silvia had been transformed! This time she entered the evaluation room with a broad smile and handed her progress book to us eagerly. She was delighted to repeat the testing material and it was easy to see why. Her speech was now understandable with only minor difference from normal. But there was other news as well. Gladys had given Silvia another gift. The gift of learning a trade. Gladys paid to have Silvia learn to be a baker. Silvia was in the first few months of an 18-month program. This trade would permit her to earn a good living in San Pedro Sula.

Six months later, EARTHSPEAK arrived again to review Silvia's progress. This time they found a beautiful young woman, normal in all aspects. She spoke with almost no detectable problems. She no longer worked with Gladys as she could now do her practice and self correction herself. Her baking school was nearing completion and she was entering college in computer technology. But there was more. She told us she had entered two singing contests and WON! There was not a dry eye in the room as Silvia gave us her gift. She sang for our video camera. The tears grew as our translator told us the words of the song. They began with "Now I Am the Person God Meant Me To Be."

Silvia taught us that everyone has a song in his or her heart that wants to be sung. It only takes work and love to bring it forth.