Remembering through empathy

Mother spearheads scholarship for kind students at late daughter’s school

Published on June 2, 2014

When Ruth Morgane Chollet’s 21-year-old daughter Sarah Chollett died in her sleep earlier this month after years of declining health, there was an immediate desire to find a fitting way to remember her life.

“I thought that I needed to do something in her memory, because she was an absolutely defenceless person, but pure sweetness,” Ruth told The Telegram.

Ruth is now doing just that through a scholarship set to be established at Sarah’s former school in St. John’s.

Unable to speak and “severely developmentally delayed” as described by her mother, Sarah was an innocent child treated with the utmost respect by teachers, students and parents associated with Bishop Abraham Elementary.

“She had a wonderful experience the whole eight years she was there,” said Ruth.

Sarah spent eight years in a special needs class at the school located on Pennywell Road.

Brought out special quality in students

As tends to be the case with all schools, her mother was aware some students there had rough upbringings.

While the student population always treated Sarah with respect, her mother found it was often those who had difficulty connecting with other classmates who went the extra mile with Sarah.

“There were certain children who in spite of the brutality of some of their lives, there were certain children that were really kind to her.”

Motivation was an issue for Sarah, and her mother said it was difficult to discern how aware she was of her surroundings.

“For (Sarah), it was this massive noise of faces and most likely utter confusion, and out of that there would be one child or maybe two who would reach up to her,” said Ruth Chollet. “They would take their hand to her hand, and it was just really nice.”

She remembers in particular one child who was known to be rough with other students in the school.

“He might have been beating up half the kids in the school, but for her, that (caring) part of his character just rose up for her. I always sort of felt with all the bullying going on today — that’s all we hear — that this special quality that this boy had could have been enhanced or encouraged to help him rise above his surroundings.”


Recognizing empathy

In Sarah’s final year at Bishop Abraham Elementary almost a decade ago, Ruth Chollet decided to give back to the school by offering $50 award to a student who was particularly kind to Sarah over the years, as chosen by the teachers.

Initially a one-off gesture, Chollet now hopes to make such recognition an annual endeavour at Bishop Abraham. Through Royal Bank, a bank-controlled account is accepting donations until June 20. Beyond that date, funds collected will go directly to the Newfoundland and Labrador Education Foundation.

“I just wanted in her name to leave something for her,” said Ruth Chollet of the scholarship idea focused on expressions of kindness and empathy. She also clarifies the award would not necessarily have to go to a student who is specifically kind to those in the special needs program.

Sarah began to experience frequent seizures within the last four years of her life. Prior to her death, she was also dealing with sleep apnea.

“It was getting worse, and I noticed her body was fatiguing,” said her mother. “But I didn’t really think that she was just going to die like that.”

Ruth hopes Sarah’s name can live on through the scholarship and have a positive impact on the lives of young students.

“Sarah was just a small person in the world, but she had a very big effect on people.”

Those interested in contributing to the scholarship in memory of Sarah Evelyne Chollet before June 20 can deposit money into Royal Bank account number 09573-003-5034715. Arrangements to donate through the Newfoundland and Labrador Education Foundation can be made by emailing