San Diego author, blogger and psychologist Ruth Curran believes things happen for a reason. For instance, she believes the understanding seized from her life-changing brain injury may very well change the futures of children on a West Indies island – nearly 4, 000 miles away. Today, she channels her energy, skills, and talent for re-framing life’s difficulties into strategies to help raise children’s potential. By lending her professional and personal skills to Global Volunteers’ service work in St. Lucia, Curran applies concepts from her book “Being Brain Healthy“ to help a vulnerable, but committed population in the coastal village of Anse la Raye, St. Lucia.
An interview with St. Lucia Volunteer Ruth Curran:
In the first 1, 000 days of a child’s life all the intellectual potential of a lifetime is mapped. Care and programs aimed at preserving and protecting that potential is key to ensuring the child’s optimal development. That’s why early childhood education and a wide range of interventions are so important, in a very real way, it does “take a village” to raise a healthy, capable child.
This is a recent understanding in brain development. As recently as ten years ago, we weren’t connecting an individual’s ultimate adult potential with their gestation and early childhood.
St. Lucia volunteers provide targeted health and nutrition campaigns, household gardens for supplementing meals with nutritious food, early childhood activities to encourage strong mother-child bonds, and psycho-social support for the entire family. These interventions are expected to raise the measured IQ of the population over 10 to 15 years.
Global Volunteers is approaching the project in the right way by providing the best supportive environment for brains to develop through proven essential services – all with and through the efforts of locally lead and managed organizations.
It’s fundamentally changed the way I see the world. It was a volunteer trip, and I expected to contribute. But at some point in the first few days I made a huge shift in my thinking – a mental pivot from giving to serving. And that shift carried me far outside my “comfort zone” – connecting my own research and passion for helping people to Global Volunteers’ work with mothers and babies.
I’m now collaborating with Global Volunteers’ staff to develop a training program on brain development for Anse la Raye’s parents – emphasizing children’s pre-natal health, stimulation and nutrition after birth.
After the car accident that caused her brain injury, Curran returned to school and earned a Masters Degree in psychology, with an emphasis on cognitive rehabilitation and the changes in the brain as result of disease and environmental factors. It was this education –and the hard work of stimulating her brain – which helped her regain all her functions. The brain has a great capacity to heal and recover from trauma, she says, but children can’t re-acquire what they lose to disease and under-stimulation.
All the interventions I worked with and developed came from the foundation of early brain development – how brains develop and how people can maximize that across the lifespan. I worked with a neuropsychologist and did neuropsychological evaluations as part of life planning for people with brain related disabilities – some due to injury and disease, but many due to just plain neglect or lack or nutrition, stimulation, support, education, social interaction.
My goal is to deliver the most up-to-date, cutting-edge information in a form that is meaningful and usable. We hope to present our child brain development seminars to some 80 parents in Anse la Raye – I plan to continue working with families in St. Lucia in the upcoming years.