Kittitian Mother of the Year is human transportation for her college son

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS: 3rd May, 2013 – The 2013 Kittitian Mother of the Year Award will be presented to Merlene Connor who lives in a rural area of Saint Kitts. Merl (as she is affectionately known) was nominated for the award by the classmates of her 20 year old son, Devrone Connor who is a student at the Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College in the capital city of Basseterre. For the past three years, the students have watched Merl’s dedication and determination in her struggle to ensure that her disabled son receives a college education.

Devrone was born with a birth defect which caused his feet to remain underdeveloped, resulting in his inability to walk. During his infancy through preschool days, Merl worked in preschool programs and was able to enroll him in the facility where she worked. It was easy carrying him in her arms. Later, it was still manageable carrying him on her shoulder to primary school. By the time he turned twelve, it became uncomfortable to carry him any other way except on her back. She has become human transportation for him ever since.

The Real Problem

Devrone has a wheelchair which he keeps on the college campus. When he gets there, he can maneuver his way to his classes. The problem is not getting him to the campus, although there is a twelve mile travel distance between the campus and his home. The real problem is the location of their house—about two hundred yards from the main road, with a footpath inaccessible to any type of wheels.

On leaving the house in the morning, Devrone gets on his mother’s back, and she travels downhill about one hundred yards. She must step on stones across a small wadi which becomes a stream during the rainy season. When she crosses over, she must trudge another hundred yards uphill, finally climbing up five steps. She can put him on the steps while she takes a rest before the bus comes. Then she lifts him again to his seat on the bus. On arrival at the school, she lifts him from the bus, and takes him on to the school premises. Then she takes a two minute walk to work at a child nursery. She reverses these steps at the end of Devrone’s school day.

The problem can be solved if Merl Connor and her family relocate to a house near the bus stop; and if they could, they would. There has never been enough income for them to consider that option, and Merl has been unsuccessful in obtaining assistance. She has also seen her share of unemployment, having been only recently re-employed.

Responses to the Award

Merl thinks that what she does is a normal part of her duty. “The life of every child is precious” she says, “and having a disability should not rob him of the opportunity to have a normal life.” She never thought that she would be awarded for performing a routine part of a mother’s duty to a son. Since her selection to receive the award, she and Devrone have been solicited for radio and television interviews, and she is still wondering what the fuss is all about.

She and Devrone are very close, and are usually on the same side in family discussions with the other four children (two males and two females). This time, however, Devrone does not share his mother’s view that what she does for him is normal and routine.

“It’s about time for my mother to be recognized,” he says. “My mother is making a huge difference in my life. She could have left me at home, because of my disability, but she chose not to, and I am very grateful.” Devrone who is on track to graduate with an Associate of Arts in General Studies is quick to point out, “This would not have happened, if it were not for my mother.” His goal is to become a physician, and the family supports his dream.

The Award Sponsor

The award will be presented in a Mothers’ Day ceremony at the Manhattan Gardens Conference Center in Basseterre. The event is sponsored by The Reign of Elegance, an organization dedicated to the social development of Kittitian youth, under the direction of Mrs. Telca Wallace.

The organization hopes that by highlighting positive motherhood, they will present exemplary role models for the youth and for other parents. They have presented a Mother of the Year Award every two years since 2007.

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