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I must tell you the story of an extraordinary person who sees herself as ordinary. Viewed coldly, as a statistic, she might even be considered quite ordinary. Dayniah Manderson is 28, black, an immigrant and a single mother. What is most apparent and distinguishes her from others is that Dayniah was born with a rare, progressive, neuromuscular disorder called Spinal Muscular Atrophy. It has trapped her in a body that becomes weaker and more distorted every day. For more information on this disease you can visit the website: smafoundation.org

Dayniah's mother brought her to this country from Jamaica specifically to seek better medical care for her. Dayniah's life in Jamaica had not been easy. You see, Dayniah has always been bound to a wheelchair, unable to perform even the most basic tasks such as bathing and toileting. On top of that, she was molested by an uncle just prior to leaving Jamaica, unable to fight back or run because of her disability. Her first years in the U.S. were spent in the housing projects of the South Bronx, where her mother, a proud woman, worked long hours as a domestic/nanny, struggling to give Dayniah the best life she could.

Although Dayniah's body is completely defenseless, I have been witness to how strong she is in mind and spirit. Despite the challenges of her childhood and adolescence, Dayniah excelled intellectually in school. Along with many others, I felt compelled to give her the encouragement and support that helped her attain a bachelor's degree from NYU. Dayniah was also the recipient of the prestigious New York Times College Scholarship Award in 1999 which is a 4 year college scholarship program. This is an extremely competitive award, further attesting to her outstanding academic ability.

Her passion for educating led her back to the South Bronx where she now teaches 8th grade English. Dayniah's body has gradually succumbed to this disease and becomes more distorted with each passing month.


© 2008 The Dayniah Fund, Inc.