Dreams Come True

by Laverne Bissky – February 28, 2012

From the time I was a young child, I dreamed of traveling the world and doing humanitarian work. This was a strange dream for a child who grew up on a farm in rural Saskatchewan (Canada) and never even left the province until I was an adult.

Within a year of finishing University and starting my first job, I took my first trip: two months in Europe, traveling on my own. I was hooked!

A few years later when my soon-to-be husband proposed, I asked for a trip instead of a diamond ring. So we spent our honeymoon in an obscure little Central American country called Belize. It was my first taste of the developing world and I loved it. Even the cold showers and geckos on the ceiling in our cabana on the beach!

My husband had done a lot of traveling before we were married. In fact he had gone on an 8 month, round-the-world trip. We knew we would continue to travel. We even talked about taking our kids on an extended trip.

When our son, Devin was born we happily put our travel plans on hold. Two and half years later, our daughter Kasenya was born. She was three months premature and by six months old, she was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy (CP). It became evident that she be severely affected and would require a wheelchair for mobility. It appeared that I would never get to live out my childhood dream.

As we became accustomed to having a child with a disability, my husband and I began to see the silver lining and recognize the gift that disability might be. We vowed that people would say that we never let disability hold us back!

The summer that Kasenya was one and Devin was three we did our first camping trip. We drove for three hours to a remote lake.

We arrived in the late afternoon, set up the tent trailer and made supper. It was a beautiful Saskatchewan prairie summer evening and the lake was perfectly calm as the sun started to go down.

As part of her disability, our daughter has a sleep disorder. And although she still has, it in the early years it was severe. With all the fresh air we were bound for a good night sleep.

Kasenya had a different idea. She found the fresh air invigorating and was up every half hour for the whole night. Until dawn when she finally fell soundly asleep. Then the squirrels started dropping pine cones on the metal roof of the tent trailer. We got no sleep. In the morning we had breakfast, packed up our stuff and drove 3 hours home.

We persisted with camping and since then we have camped in every province in Canada.

Then it was time to take a bolder step. We planned our first overseas trip. To Australia. It was, of course, amazing. But we wanted to know if we could cope in a less developed country.

So we spent two weeks in Cuba. We took local busses and rented a small house from a local family. We lived like Cubans for those two weeks and it was amazing. But somehow not enough.

In 2008, it was time to take the plunge. So my husband took time off work and we pulled our children out of school for 4 months in order to travel to SouthEast Asia. When people asked us about school, we said we refused to let school stand in the way of their education.

During those four months, we backpacked through China, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. We spent about 6 weeks of that time volunteering at orphanages and Buddhist temples and in a remote village in Vietnam. And we also visited hospitals.

In Saigon, we met with a group of parents who also have children with CP. They sat quietly around the perimeter of the room and I noticed that many of them were crying so I went around the room and shook hands or hugged each of them.

We spent the morning with these families, sharing our knowledge and experiences as well as our views of disability and inclusion.

At the end I asked our translator why the parents had been crying. She said that in developing countries such as Vietnam it is considered shameful to have a child with a disability. By including our child as a full member of our family, we had not only given these families an education but also dignity.

There was a flash of light as I began to see for the first time how my dream of traveling in the developing world and doing humanitarian work would be enhanced and not hindered by having a child with a disability.

Please visit our family travel website: www.NoOrdinaryJourney.com