Tamara’s mother had 10 children to care for and saw no alternative to leaving her in the hospital for her first five years. NAC helped Tamara’s mother and family bring her home for good.
There was a lot that people didn’t know about Tamara when she was five years old and living at the Foundling Hospital. That she had a talent for art. That she loved to learn and was curious about everything. That she read the NY Times. Or that one day she would become the first in her family to attend college. Living in a hospital did not give her much hope to nurture her potential.
Tamara was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, or brittle bone disease. Her bones are very fragile and can break doing everyday activities, such as turning in bed or getting dressed. As a child, Tamara would sometimes have up to 5 broken bones a year. Her care was too overwhelming for her family, who had little support at the time.
When NAC found Tamara still living in the hospital at age 5, a team of social workers immediately started putting the appropriate supports in place for Tamara’s family to take her home. NAC helped to make their apartment accessible and comfortable for a child with a disability. At the same time, services were provided for the entire family from medical advocacy to mental health care and educational services. Her siblings received recreational and therapeutic services. Once home and safely being cared for, Tamara received the health and educational services she needed. When she was 15, Tamara joined NAC’s newly formed art therapy group, which had a profound effect on her life.
Tamara excelled in school. Yet, when it was time to apply for college, her high school counselor told Tamara that she should only apply to a “two-year college.” Not happy with that answer and armed with the encouragement of everyone at NAC, Tamara set a goal to attend Hunter College. She registered for the SAT’s, only to find out that the room where the test was being given was not wheelchair accessible. With characteristic tenacity, Tamara advocated for a wheelchair accessible room, took the SAT’s, and was accepted to Hunter. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology, and then went on to complete her Master’s degree from New York University’s Graduate Program for Art Therapy.
Today, Tamara uses what she has learned to help others. She is a strong advocate for people with disabilities; she has met President Obama in the White House; and works full-time for an organization dedicated to making adaptive equipment. She is also part of the NAC’s Alumni Group, which meets monthly to discuss important advocacy issues and ways that alums can give back to younger NAC kids.