Deanne Berarducci is here to make a difference. You won’t be seeing her around town though. If she reads this, it will be in Kenya, the country she is currently calling home. Should you be looking to purchase a unique present, support a great cause and help make a difference too, she has something for you.
In the school where Berarducci is currently volunteering, there are fifty two children with special needs in one classroom with, for a long period of time, a single teacher named Miriam. Just recently, a second teacher was hired.
“Miriam is amazing. The age range is huge, the youngest is five years old and the oldest is twenty nine,” Berarducci says. “Their disabilities range quite a lot as well; autism, down syndrome, mental delay, cerebral palsy, and some they don’t actually know, as they haven’t been diagnosed by a doctor. Each student is wonderful, caring, kind, considerate, compassionate, loving, and smart in their own ways.”
In an effort to ensure the students have some means of supporting themselves, Berarducci has started a facebook page where the students sell items they have created.
“The idea came from a Kenyan friend of mine and the teacher,” she says. “We wanted to share the students’ talents with other people. The money goes directly back to their classroom to buy more supplies.”
The students make purses, wallets, mats, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, belts, and boxes. Everything on sale, except the mats, are made from beads by the children.
“The teacher Miriam she is the one who is making a real difference in the lives of these children,” says Berarducci. “It was her idea to get them to make the items they do in order for them to be self sustainable when and if they ever leave the school. Being special needs impacts their future here. Culturally, they are just starting to be recognized and economically it will be harder for them to find work when they are older.”
Berarducci hails from a line that can be considered ‘old Revelstoke.’ Her family’s name dates back in town to the 1860’s. She was born and raised in Revelstoke. Her parents, brother, and various other family and friends still call it home.
“I left Revelstoke numerous times, but always ended up back there,” she says. “Revelstoke will always be my home, but it’s not where I would ever choose to make my life.”
In 2014 Berarducci left a dysfunctional and abusive relationship. She had worked for Community Connections with special needs children and is a Teacher’s Assistant with a diploma in Child Psychology. She had always wanted to travel and felt drawn to finding a way to help disadvantaged children who lacked the protection a first world country offers.
“I went to Saigon, Vietnam for four months of volunteering with special needs children in an orphanage there,” she explains. “I loved it, and became addicted to the lifestyle, the children and of having a sense of self worth again.”
Berarducci came back to Revelstoke until November of 2014, when she went to Nepal for five months.
“I was volunteering in three different orphanages. In one I would do physio and homework with the special needs children. In another I would teach the special needs children who were not yet ready for mainstream school. And in the final one I would go after school and on weekends and take the children out, or do homework or just be there with them,” she says. “Two of three orphanages were with special needs children.”
After another brief stint in Canada, Berarducci headed for the Philippines. She has also volunteered in Myanmar and Ecuador, before circling back to Nepal and Vietnam.
In the midst of these travels, she spent a month in Kenya working with special needs children. Later, she headed back for an additional ten days, and later still she went returned and stayed another month. On January 8th 2019, Berarducci headed back once more, and this time, she stayed.
“They really need a lot of help here, and they readily accept you and all you have to offer them,” she says of why she stayed in Kenya. “I knew in my first week after arriving in my first trip here that I would one day be living here.”
Revelstoke does crop up in Berarducci’s mind from time to time. Being able to drink from the tap or have a bath, and thinking about her friends and family, all make her a little nostalgic. “I don’t miss the cold weather and snow,” she points out. “I feel very lucky to be able to do what I love doing and have the support of my family and friends while I do it. Revelstoke will always be home, but for now it’s not my forever home.”
Seeing the enormous divide between developing countries and the first world has pushed Berarducci to encourage people to recognize the privilege of their accident of birth and make an effort to give back.
“I would recommend volunteering to everyone and anyone out there. It’s not just about giving back for me, it’s a way of life and choosing to make the most of my life,” she says. “Volunteering in developing countries made me whole again, gave me back my life in a way I didn’t know it was missing. It really makes me see life through a different set of eyes. The smiles on the children’s faces and the many new friends I have made are worth the challenges of leaving comfortable living to me.”
Berarducci is hoping to to eventually work with an NGO or the United Nations and work towards the opening of more shelters and schools for special needs and street children.
“I know I can do it,” she says. “I have to believe I can in order to make it happen.”