The Location- Marsh Harbour, Abaco, the Bahamas
The Course: SOC 803 International Community Engagement
SOC803 is an international experiential placement course offered by the Ryerson Sociology Department to Sociology and other selected Faculty of Arts students. It is taught for one month in May at the Every Child Counts School (ECC) for children with special needs, located in Marsh Harbour, Abaco, in the northern Bahamas. There are some required pre-travel sessions on Ryerson campus.
The course offers an intensive educational opportunity for students to contribute to a social justice educational project connected to the ECC School, and to learn about development issues in a global context. The course involves intensive learning through assigned projects at ECC, interaction with the School's children, young adults and staff, meetings with community leaders, tours and educational activities, readings and discussion, and a written reflective course component, as well as adapting to a new culture. It is taught by Professor Jean Golden of the Sociology Department and in her role as the Director of the Ryerson Bahamas Project.
The Every Child Counts (ECC) School
Every Child Counts (ECC) is a community funded school for children with wide ranging special needs. The Bahamian government currently does not have financial resources to fund the education or occupational training for most Bahamian students with special needs. Many of these children are invisible and isolated. Some are bullied and abused. Most have not been adequately assessed for their specific disability.
In 1998 Lyn Major, the mother of two newly adopted autistic boys, and now the Principal and Administrator of Every Child Count (ECC) School, began to create a safe and caring educational environment for children with special needs to learn and develop to their own full potential. The ECC School has grown from a small trailer with a few students to a four building school, under the governance of the Bahamian Archdiocese who donated the land and institutional support services. Today there are over 100 ECC students and a growing waiting list. The school includes a new vocational training and sales centre, with an assisted living centre for independent living in the planning stage. The school survives on the support of the Bahamian community, boaters and other tourists, second homeowners, fundraising, and local and international volunteers. Ryerson has joined this community of support for ECC.
|ECC School Founder, Principal and Administrator Lyn Major with Ryerson students (2012)||ECC graduation with a former Bahamian PM, the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie, and ECC Principal Lyn Major (2013)|
The Bahamas Project
In 2011, Ryerson University Sociology Professor Jean Golden founded the Bahamas Project at the Every Child Counts (ECC) School for children with special needs. In 2015 she added the Sociology credit course SOC 803 International Community Engagement. To date over 130 Ryerson students have passed through the Bahamas Project as academic placements and volunteers or as SOC803 students. The placements, course students and volunteers (Social Work, Early Childhood Studies, Sociology and other Arts students) travel and live in Abaco, the Bahamas every spring for 4-10 weeks. They provide direct classroom support for the ECC School, including educational resources, lesson planning, preparation for the Special Olympics and the development of informational newsletters, community disability awareness and anti-bullying programmes. They also assist in the new vocational and sales centre, ECC administrative work and technology, fundraising, community projects and future project planning.
Recently the Bahamian Government signed the United Nations International Convention on Disability Rights, passed a Bahamian Disability Act, and created a Disability Commission, all of which will profoundly change the lives of children and adults with special needs. Ryerson students are part of this transformative process.