Season 1 Episode 4
Original air date Aug 31, 2014
Host Max Tucci sits down with Jackie Lewis of the SOS Children’s Village and then sits with Mohamed ElHerazy to hear their inspirational stories.
About SOS Florida
SOS Children’s Villages – Florida is a foster care neighborhood in Coconut Creek. Our tree-lined street has twelve houses, which are home to up to seventy-five boys and girls. Our promise of “Healing, Hope and Home for Every Child” assures every child growing up in the Village a safe and secure home, a nurturing family, a vibrant childhood and and array of services to help them overcome their past traumas and build a successful future.
How do the children come to SOS?
Our children have been removed from their homes and families by the courts because of abandoment, abuse and neglect. Caseworkers from ChildNet, the agency overseeing foster care in Broward and Palm Beach County, make a determination of what foster care placements are appropriate for each child in custody. Sibling group placement is a priority for SOS.
How is SOS unique from other foster care organizations?
The Village allows for brothers and sisters, who are typically separated while in foster care, to reunite and maintain their family connection. SOS also provides an 18+ After Care program to help our young adults transition out of foster care after they turn eighteen.
How long do children stay at SOS?
The state of Florida strives to ensure that “no child grows up in foster care.” For this reason, the average stay at SOS is approximately two years. During this time, ChildNet is working on a plan to either reunify children with their biological family or find an adoptive home.
What happens when the children turn 18?
SOS was the first organization in Broward County to offer After Care services to its young adults transitioning out of foster care and living on their own for the first time. Because of these services, our alumni continue to have a family to turn to and a home to visit no matter how old they are.
For More info on SOS
“I am lucky to have lots of teachers who have listened and guided me throughout the years,” Mohamed Elherazy said during a presentation to the Fairfax County Public Schools, using a DynaVox Vmax+ . “I am also lucky to have a wonderful and supportive family.”
Mohamed, 18, lives in Falls Church, VA with his mother Naglaa Eid, father Magdy Elherazy, twin sister Farah and grandmother Mahida Metwally . Despite Mohamed’s significant speech and physical disabilities, Farah said, “We just try to live a normal life like any other family. It’s a little bit harder but that’s okay.”
A history student at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), Mohamed is particularly interested in the Japanese language and culture. He enjoys going to live shows, museums, galleries—anywhere he can learn about art and history. Everywhere he goes, Mohamed enjoys using his device for email, texting and the internet. YouTube is his favorite website. He loves video games, and through his device he is able to instruct his cousins on how to play. “It’s very fun for him,” said Farah, a biology student at George Mason University.
Mohamed and Farah have many mutual friends. Farah remembers their easy acceptance of her twin brother while they were growing up. Mohamed doesn’t let his disability depress him or use it an excuse, she said. “He’s very kind, and he wants everyone around him to be happy.”
The Elherazy family moved to the United States from Egypt when the twins were four years old, in pursuit of better supports and services for Mohamed including treatment and testing at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Their determination complemented Mohamed’s fighting spirit as he reached goals and found ways to reach out to the world around him, communicating through the DynaVox Vmax+ , which he operates with an external touchpad attached to the joystick of his power chair. Mohamed also signs and writes in the air to convey his thoughts. He has plenty to say and sometimes does so by writing songs or poems with the aid of the device keyboard.
Mohamed graduated from Falls Church High School in June 2013. It meant a lot that the school district presentation gave him the opportunity to go public with his alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) experience and the confession that he pretty much despised AAC at first. “Eventually, I learned that it was going to benefit me in the long run.” Though it also took him a while to warm up to word prediction, he is now a wiz at using it and other rate enhancement features on his device.
Mohammed encouraged the staff with these words: “Be patient and take the time to understand the point of view of your students. They may not like what you show them, but if you keep trying they will figure out what works for them and realize they can better themselves. Do not give up. Understand that technology allows your students to be independent.”
Mohamed is always preparing messages ahead of time on his DynaVox Vmax+ for use in his travels. The family often goes to the beach and New York City, where he likes visiting the on-street food carts. At the shore, they usually rent a sand chair for him so he can navigate the beach more easily. Florida and Niagara Falls are other favorite destinations. They love it when cousins from around the United States and Enam Ibrahim, Mohamed’s grandmother from Egypt, visit their Virginia home. On a short trip to Rutherford, New Jersey for Summer Jam, Mohamed felt completely at home. There he met pop music star Chris Brown, a longtime favorite celebrity. No doubt they both left feeling inspired. Click HERE for the details.
As Mohamed keeps on going places, doing things and meeting people, it is little wonder Naglaa Elherazy likes to say that her son has a dream and, too, wants to be famous.
A poem by Mohamed Elherazy
My reflection is all I see
I mean what else could it be
I look out at what I want
Not able to handle what I am
With each circle, comes a vision
A vision to a world that’s unimaginable
Precise goals impede on my mind
As I wait for clarity, I wait for what’s mine
This window reflects my soul;
My dreams, memories, and goals are present
It holds the person I want to be
But my reflection is all I see