BY MARSHALYN ROSE Staff writer Sunday, July 19, 2015
As a little girl, she had often manoeuvred her small frame under the bed. This was the space to escape the discomfiture brought on by the curious stares of family members and others.
|No Hands- Marie Holt|
It was where Marie Holt determinedly pushed back against the limitations of being born with no hands and one foot. Driven by an unfettered enthusiasm, she mastered writing with the toes of her single foot.
"I didn't go to school because I never had a wheelchair. I always wanted to go to school but because I have no hands, they feel I couldn't use my foot to write. The reason I hide under the bed where I always have a pencil is because when people hear about me, a crowd pack up the place," the retired 64-year-old seamstress from Lafe Street in Old Harbour told the Jamaica Observer.
Marie's mom, apparently unable to deal with the overwhelming demands of a disabled child, abandoned her at just a few months old at her paternal grandmother's house. Her mom, she said, severed ties with the family and never entered her life again. "Mi grandmother said one morning, she woke up and she heard when someone said, 'Unuh come tek unuh invalid baby', and from that nobody hear from her again," she explained.
|HOLT... the reason I hide under the bed where I always have |
a pencil is because when people hear about me, a crowd
pack up the place
But the abandonment and the severe physical disability did not destroy her yearning to read and write, Marie said. Though she was unable to attend school or to frolic like other children, Marie's zeal for literacy prompted her aunt to teach her the skills at home. During one of those lessons, Marie used her toes to retrieve a pencil from the floor. Her aunt stood gaping at the physical skill Marie had perfected. "One day when a pencil fell off the table and mi use mi toes to take it up, my aunt was so frightened that I could do it," she shared.
Eventually, she used her toes to write a letter to the Lions Club, making a plea for a wheelchair so she could attend school. At roughly 15 years old, an elated Marie began classes at JAMAL in Church Pen St Catherine. The transition to formal classes, she said, also marked an incredible sense of relief for her. "You know when you just want to come out of the house? You know when you just want to go to school?" she asked rhetorically.
After four years in those classes, she progressed to the point where she was requested to work as a teacher's aide for school for about a year, where she also taught able-bodied students. "Some of them were very slow in their spelling, reading and writing, so the teacher invited me back to assist. She thought I was very good," she proudly admitted to the Sunday Observer.
According to Marie, the JAMAL experience further helped to widen her social interaction and improved her self-image which made her more sociable. Equally memorable, she said, was the level of interaction she enjoyed with other people who were not disabled. "It was a wonderful experience. I used to think that I was the only one with a disability, but at school I made friends and it stopped bothering me."
|A sample of what Holt, though disabled, is capable of doing.|
That confidence was the spur to a greater effort at self-reliance.
So when Marie secured a job at the St Catherine Parent Association for Handicapped Children, she poured her energy into working with the disabled youngsters. Defying her birth abnormality once again, she also taught sewing skills, in particular the sewing of teddy bears and dish towels. Her efforts were recognised with four certificates of merit from the association. more