Some people wilt under adversity, while others blossom and use it to make a difference in the lives of others.
That has been the story of Loretta Lashley, the principal of the Christian Learning Clinic, which was set up more than three decades ago.
Lashley, the mother of special needs children, took matters into her hands when she discovered that the local system had no place for her charges to develop and learn at their own pace.
That led to the establishment of the Christian Learning Clinic in 1985, not just for her children, but for scores of Barbadian families who had nowhere else to turn.
Lashley founded The Christian Learning Clinic on biblical principles to develop a vibrant Christian ministry that caters to students who are physically and developmentally challenged.
“As a Christian school, from our inception we used the Holy Bible for the training of speech and language acquisition, because in most cases, people with brain injuries need help with their language skills,” she explained.
“As we used God’s word for teaching music, psalms, songs and words, we discovered that two of our autistic students in particular have become our greatest testimonies of the miraculous power of God.”
These two students are Kasheena Bishop and Devon Sealy.
Kasheena, who is now 31 years old, was described as “’non-verbal” – only able to hum sounds and not speak – when she first entered the Christian Learning Clinic in 1992 at the age of seven.
“However, after only four months of speech and language training, she could repeat the names of all 66 books in the Bible, and could also call them out when randomly tested,” said Lashley, the school’s principal.
“She could also sing in perfect tone, the words of the choruses she listened to daily. A year after that, she was singing solos in concerts.”
A proud Lashley noted that Kasheena has concentrated on the Book of Revelation, the final and most intense book of the Bible.
“Every day she listened to the sections and chapters she wanted to commit to memory, until she could repeat them correctly. Once she learned a segment, she had no difficulty repeating it. Nevertheless, she would rehearse them over a long period of time until she was satisfied that each word was correct.”
Kasheena has broken down the 22-chapter book into three sections, namely Part One – The seven churches; Part Two – The New Jerusalem; and Part Three – Heaven is real and hell is real.
Devon Sealy was also non-verbal when he came to the Clinic at eight years of age. His story is nothing short of a miracle.
One day while at church, Devon who was just eight at the time, declared “Hallelujah!” to the surprise of everyone. Three months later, he shouted “Christmas Tree”, after seeing the tree for nine years.
Devon now plays the keyboard at church, does some of the church’s computer work, and has even acquired his driver’s license!
The school’s Christian Ministry hosts an annual concert, and has made appearances at numerous churches and schools around Barbados, as well as in St. Vincent and Canada.
The group also performed at Gospelfest some years ago and has a Bronze Award in the Art and Craft (Junior) segment of the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA) under its belt as well.
The Clinic’s Kew Road, St Michael home is very close to two churches, and has received commendations from their pastors.
Founder of the Power in the Blood Assemblies, the late Bishop Vibert Lowe, once praised one of Kasheena’s performances, highlighting her ability to recite verbatim all 22 chapters of the Book of Revelation with expression and passion.
Pastor McAthin Hinds from the Mount of Praise Wesleyan Holiness Church has also heaped praises on the performance of the school.
“I have no doubt that God has called the Christian Learning Clinic to be a light to the nation’s schools and churches for a time such as this. It is my belief that the testimonies of the children have been indelibly written on the hearts of those who saw and heard their ministry,” he said.
For Lashley, it has all been a labour of love and she apparently has no plans of letting go her life’s mission of transforming the lives of others.