Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 5, 2008
Ed Carson created a legacy of beloved children
- Photo supplied
Ed Carson loved each and every child unconditionally.
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
As the small, unkempt child lay on the dirt floor crying inconsolably, Ed Carson picked him up, clasped him in his arms, kissed him, and told him, "I love you."
"That's the kind of man Ed was," says Tillie Zyp as she recalled Carson's time in Nicaragua as a volunteer for Change for Children during the 1980s. "I visited and I saw him do that many times. He was the very best."
Now, as her friend lies in a hospital bed dying of cancer, Zyp, who founded Change for Children with her husband Hank, can't help but feel Carson has been called to heaven a little early for her taste.
"Maybe they want him in heaven because they are having trouble there."
Carson, who volunteered with Change for Children since 1979, will be 50 in August. "At Change for Children Ed was a star," Zyp said in an interview.
Edmonton Catholic Schools honoured the terminally ill Carson April 28 for his work in Nicaragua and Edmonton with special-needs students. At a ceremony held at Catholic Education Services, Carson's wife Maria and 15-year-old daughter Quetzala accepted a volunteer recognition award-a handmade stained-glass crucifix-on his behalf.
This is not the first time Carson is recognized for his work. In 2002 he received Alberta Education's prestigious Excellence in Teaching Award and last year the Alberta Teachers' Association presented him with an Award of Merit.
"Ed and us worked together in developing projects all over the world," recalled Zyp. "He challenged all of us."
A strong supporter of the Sandinista Revolution, Carson bought a small pick-up truck and left for Nicaragua in the late 1980s to work with war orphans and disabled children in the capital city of Managua.
With the backing of Change for Children and the Spiritan Fathers, which paid him his $200 a month salary, Carson trained staff and taught practical and life skills to children at two different centres. Children loved his lively presence and used to call him "pap Eduardo."
When Carson left Managua for a short visit to Edmonton in early 1989 the little children ran behind him crying "Don't leave pap Eduardo, don't leave."
"There I'm kissed and hugged more often than in any other place," he told the WCR in an April 1989 interview. "I can't return to Edmonton now. My children need me there."
Carson went back to his children in Nicaragua driving a donated school bus filled with supplies for an orphanage.
Following the electoral defeat of the Sandinistas in 1990, Carson created new organizations to promote human development and became a well-known figure in Managua.
In the early 1990s he married Maria Elena, the woman who ran Managua's Centre for the Protection of Disabled Children, where he volunteered. They bought a house in the capital city and had a daughter, Quetzala. The three eventually moved to Edmonton and Carson resumed his teaching career with Edmonton Catholic Schools.
At St. Angela's School, where he worked for 25 years until he was struck with cancer last year, Carson is as revered as he is in Nicaragua.
"I love Ed," said Marilyn Magnan, who was principal at St. Angela's from 2000 to 2003. "Ed is an amazing person; the kindest person I've ever met. There is no ego with Ed. He just gives unconditionally. Special education students often lead very difficult lives but Ed always makes them feel good about themselves," noted Magna.
Ken Pyra, assistant principal at St. Angela's, described Carson as a "unique" individual and as an "innovator" who implemented what he calls a "community-orientated kind of learning" at St. Angela's. "Ed really focused on having his students interact socially with one another and with the community," he said. "He made sure students got a real life experience rather than sitting in the classroom and learning from a book."
Carson would visit parents in his own time and "you could find him at school virtually any time at night doing something for his kids," recalled Pyra. "
At St. Angela's School, Carson inspired students and staff alike to raise funds for groups in Nicaragua such as an orphanage for severely handicapped children called Pajarito Azul.
"He had such passion for everything he was doing; I think he gave of himself to such a point where really there was nothing left to give," Pyra said. "I'll remember him as larger than life."