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This is a photo story about Sonika Shand who is a teenager in Lluidas Vale, St. Catherine, Jamaica. I met Sonika while I lived and worked in the community as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I found Sonika and her mother to be wonderful people who had positive attitudes despite the condition of poverty in which they lived.

Sonika was diagnosed with scoliosis which is a curvature of the spine. They did not catch it soon enough to be able to perform surgery. Sonika suffered a great deal of pain because of the condition and was unable to do simple things such as bend over and touch her toes. She also missed school often because the long ride by two taxis was often too much for her.

After about a year of costly consultations her doctors decided that a back brace would help her condition. The only problem was that there was no money to buy the brace that would have to be imported from the United States. Gloria found help for her daughter from local police officers who Gloria often helped by doing their wash and cooking. I also asked for donations from my parents' church in Indiana. Through the kindness of friends and strangers Sonika was able to get her back brace.

Postscript: I returned to Lluidas Vale in April 2003 and visited Sonika and her mother, Gloria. Because of the back brace Sonika stands taller and straighter. She no longer has to endure the pain. She is also attending nursing school in Kingston.
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Gloria Woolley helps her daughter Sonika Shand as they get ready in the morning to go to Kingston. They got up at 5:30 am to catch two taxis, a mini bus and a city bus to go to the doctor in Kingston for Sonika to be fitted with a back brace. Sonika is 18 years old and suffers from scoliosis (a curvature of the spine).
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Sonika endures long hours in the doctors office as they try to adjust her new brace to fit. Her condition was discovered too late for surgery to help. The doctors suggested the back brace as the only way to relieve Sonika from constant pain.
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Sonika sucks on her finger to relieve her anxiety as the doctor and his assistant adjust her brace.
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The bulky brace which peaks through Sonika's school uniform blouse does not stop her from resuming her studies. Here she and classmates work on a project during science class.
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Sonika passes a brochure to a classmate in her high school career room. Because of her health problems and the amount of time she spent in doctors' offices she wishes to become a nurse.
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Sonika and her best friend enjoy a moment before school starts. Both are seniors at McGraff High School in Linstead, St. Catherine, Jamaica. The brace Sonika wears has made a huge improvement. She feels less pain and even measures almost an inch taller.
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Sonika and Gloria hang out their wash behind their house. They do all their wash by hand. Sonika's back makes it painful for her to do too much. Here she is putting the clothespins together and she said that they are the shape of her spine. Gloria also does the wash of some of the local policemen to help them out.