the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.
Today we lived by this definition. We returned to a government run orphanage for children and adults alike. This is our third time to visit this orphanage and each time we go to build relationships. Our hope is through these relationships, the therapists, nannies, and other employees will see our hearts and desire to engage with their residents.
We feel our relationship was deepened, if only a little, today. The therapists were more engaged and willing to collaborate regarding the residents with whom they work. Much laughter, smiles, and treatment ideas were shared. The therapists requested we assess their residents as if we were seeing them for the first time.
Kelly spent a majority of the time in their new multi sensory environment. It was amazing! They had a tactile and auditory wall, ball pit with self activating color changing buttons, a bubble tube, a water bed with LED lights, and a cloud swing. The therapist were using it as a circuit of input so, Kelly help work with them to adjust the sensory input to fit each child. She was able to demonstrate with both sensory seekers and residents with low activity level. The first little boy they brought was diagnosed with autism and was very sensory seeking but, also had many behaviors. Kelly was able to show how to use their room to best calm his body and how to modify his routine to decrease his negative behaviors. During lunch, Kelly was able to help out some of the child residents learn to eat independently. It was nice to work with the nannies to help improved functional independence.
Paige spent the whole day helping the social worker, nannies, teachers, and psychologist with oral motor, speech production, language, and behavior. Paige was able to help a girl who was very motivated to speak use placement cues to make specific sounds. Late in the afternoon, she came up to Paige and independently used her placement cues to make those same sounds. Paige was very encouraged by her self-initiation to speak.
During the afternoon, the staff asked Nicole to help them with some PT ideas to complete in the sensory room. This was a difficult environment for PT due to limit space for the movement these individuals were seeking, but Nicole was a trooper! She was able to work with a sweet boy using strengthening techniques at the the tactile wall and was able to fit him with braces and shoes for the first time. He was then able to stand independently for the first time and take steps with minimal assistance. It was so great to see all of his therapists clapping and yelling " Bravo!!".
We were also able to speak with the therapists about what they would like help with in the future. We are encouraged by our blossoming relationship and are excited for our future partnership with this program.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), we were too busy to take many pictures. Here is a story about a boy we worked with at the orphanage. We are happy to say he is now a sweet, gentle young man.
We are excited to go home to our families but, we will definitely miss our Guatemalan family (Tio Juan, Anita, and Diana)! We are lucky enough this time to take our translator, Leo, back to the States with us! Until next time....
Today was truly a day of collaboration. We spent our day at the Learning Spot, a therapy center run by our friend Diana. She uses her special education degree and training provided by TEAMworks to provide basic therapy to kids in her community. Today was a special day, as it was a holiday in Guatemala and all of the parents were able to accompany their children to the clinic. The goal of today was to use and then build on the treatment plans created by Diana and her team, as well as educate the parents on home programming ideas.
We first met Juanito, a determined boy with cerebral palsy. Paige was able to use a standardized speech test to assess his language level and simultaneously teach Diana how to give the test. Nicole was able to cast him for braces to help get better weight bearing during walking. And, Kelly was able to give him hand brace for better functional hand use. He was so sweet and excited for each of us to work with him and even shared what the other had done using gestures. He pointed to Paige and then to his mouth with his finger, to Kelly and the splint on his hand, and Nicole and the casts on the floor. He has such amazing potential and we are so excited he is at Learning Spot for therapy.
We then met Esteban. His dad has great skills to modify and make therapy equipment for the kids at the Learning Spot and those that will benefit his child. He and his wife were very invested in all we had to offer and videoed all that we did with their son. Kelly and Nicole were able to get him in to more functional positions and provide strengthening techniques for his arms, legs, and trunk; and, Paige was able to complete oral motor strengthening for better feeding.
Pedrito was an exciting ball of energy with many sensory and communication needs. Paige was able to initiate PECs and signs for better communication as well as, provide a vibrating star teether. Pedrito really enjoyed the input to his mouth! Kelly was able to demonstrate many sensory techniques to provide more proprioceptive input to decrease head banging. Pedrito enjoyed all of the input, but he liked it most when Kelly bundled him in a body sock and bounced him up and down. You could really see him relax in these moments.
Diana's friend helped bring in two children from outside villages. We were aware of them before we arrived and brought equipment based on their desired skill. Nicole was able to help a 14 year old girl walk with a walker. It was her desire to walk by her birthday and she did! The whole team was able to help a young boy with functional positioning, strengthening, and oral motor skills. Nicole was also able to help the boy with ankle stability when standing by giving him braces and Kelly was able to give him a stretching splint to use at night.
Diana really saved the best for last...a sweet baby girl from an orphanage nearby. We were all able to snuggle her and show Diana how to complete some developmental testing to help with future treatment plans.
We are exhausted from our productive day but, we wouldn't have it any other way! Diana's heart to serve the children in her community is evident and we are so blessed to be part of her team.
It's the little thing in life that can make the greater impact. That's was the mantra for today as the three of us and Leo walked into Hermano Pedro. Hermano Pedro is an orphanage affiliated with a church and hospital that houses 100+ children with special needs, many who have very severe disabilities. They are lucky in that they employ several occupational and physical therapist who work with the kids each day. If we are being honest, the morning was very hard. The morning therapists were very skeptical of us and were hesitant to work along side us with their children. They were, however, willing to bring us children to work with by ourselves. We were determine to show God's love. The worth of a child. The sweet interaction of these beautiful individual's God created. Their staff is very good a providing therapy but, not in a way where they interact with each child. We are hoping that through our actions they see a bit of what a blessing these children can be to us, just as we can be for them.
Before heading to lunch ourselves, we were able to help feed several of the children and Paige was able to educate on safer feeding techniques. Kelly and Nicole helped feed a little boy by allowing him to help himself. With just a bit of help, Carlitos, was able to bring a loaded spoon to his mouth! He lit up and we could tell he was very proud of himself.
After lunch and a staffing change, we set to work again. This time, the new set of therapists were familiar with our group and were excited to see what we could do to help their children. Nicole was able to fit many braces to kids feet, while Kelly was giving out hand splints left and right (literally, almost always two per child). At the end of our day we met with some of the therapists to see what we could provide on our next visit. Paige was excited to hear they would be open to a “feeding clinic” for their nannies on ways to provide even safer ways to help their kids eat.
Again, we are so grateful for the chance to build relationships and little by little we are gaining the trust and respect of the staff. We are so excited for what the future holds at Hermano Pedro.
On a more adventurous note, due to the pouring rain, we took a TukTuk ride to Hermano Pedro. It was fast, very fast!
Day 3 Guatemala
It is always good to see old friends! Today we did just that by returning to Mama Carmen's farm to see the children who inspired us to start serving villages. People in the villages have a difficult time getting medical or therapy care and are not easily able to travel to the bigger cities either. Each year we visit the same children and see great gains and help their parents with concerns regarding their child.
Our first stop was Keila. She is now in 6th grade! She is still using a walker for mobility and needed a few adjustments. Her mom reports that her teachers are going to hold her back a year because her reading and writing level is not up to par. Paige and Kelly assessed what could be causing the delay and it was determined that she likely has some level or dyslexia and definitely needs glasses! Her mom is going to try to get an appointment in the city soon.
We then visited Vinicio (aka our shoe connoisseur) and Nicole was able to fit him in some new shoes. Each year he gets so excited for his new pair of shoes from TEAMworks. Paige was able to give him a flauta, or toy flute, to help with lip closure. We were happy to note that his lip closure had improved since our last visit. His mother was so grateful! We are especially humbled by this relationship as she was easily the most skeptical of us on our very first visit. Today, she said she prays and waits for us to visit her son and we are so blessed to do so.
Each trip needs a little adventure! Today, the adventure was a tiny walk to Wilder's house. Last year we were unable to reach his house due to wet and muddy roads. This year threatened to be the same, but we wouldn't let anything stop us from seeing his sweet face this time! We packed up the equipment we knew we would need and started our trek up the mountain. Boy, was it worth it! Nicole fit Wilder with some new shoes and problem solved braces to be delivered the next trip, Paige taught him how to play “Go Fish” for improved cognition and memory, and Kelly battled him in a game of “Connect Four”. He has impressive fine motor skills for all the excess movement he displays and was able to win the game.
We always enjoy our time at the farm and today was, ABSOLUTELY, no different!
God is so good! We have been blessed by many great connections in Guatemala, all who share our mission. Today, we met two more, Steven and his daughter Catherine. Steven had reached out to Anita for connections who could help with his last class for translator certification and we are always willing to meet new potential translators. Knowing our ministry, Steven arrived with two wheelchairs that had been sitting in his garage for the past two years. We, on the other hand, were only able to bring wheelchairs for specific children we had met on previous trips. Once we loaded up these new chairs, we headed out to Santo Domingo Los Ocotes. Anita's friend, Cecy, serves in this area and mentioned TEAMworks to the local official. He offered to help all the individuals in the area with special needs assemble at a local's home. It is so amazing to see God's hand in orchestrating this impromptu “community clinic.”
Steven and his chairs were a huge blessing because today we met a sweet girl who was affected as a young baby by meningitis. She was very involved physically and needed many supports for good positioning. One of the chairs provided was perfect! It provided a good seat and upright posture for feeding and comfort. Additionally, we met a young man who, we can only guess, had muscular dystrophy. He was dependent for mobility and was carried to the location of our “clinic”. We were able to fit the second chair Steven brought for this young man along with a wheelchair tray (also provided by Steven) which we were able to fit to eliminate some gravity for self-feeding. Kelly was able to fashion a hand splint to assist with holding a fork or spoon and Paige was able to give nutrition advice for improved caloric intake.
All three of us were able to help a four year old little boy who had significant weakness throughout his body. Paige was able to give advice for safe feeding, Nicole provided braces for ankle support, and Kelly provided a hand brace to promote open hand use. Kelly and Nicole were also able to provide positioning for strengthening. When Nicole arrives in Guatemala, the children named Rosa with leg length discrepancies flock to her! She was able to help another young lady with stretches and will likely provide a lift on a future trip.
We are so excited to see what the future holds for this area! Tomorrow we head out to Mama Carmen farm!
We've made it! After early morning flights we have made it to Guatemala! We made a quick stop for lunch at our friend Anita's and then we were off to Mama Carmen's orphanage. We had a very specific mission at this orphanage—fit Cesar and Merlin to their new wheelchairs. Last trip we greatly disappointed Cesar when we were unable to properly fit him to a self-propelling chair so, the TEAM got measurements and we were able to bring back a chair this trip. With a few minor adjustments, the chair fit like a glove and he was able to wheel himself throughout the orphanages' main floor. Merlin, well, she was a bit more complicated. She has weak muscles and tiny body and required a bit more support from her chair. After a couple hours of modification, she fit perfectly into her new chair. This endeavor was truly a TEAM effort! The tools were everywhere and Paige, Leo, Nicole, and Kelly each had a hand on the chair at all times. God truly provides for those in need! Merlin looked fantastic and happy!
In the off chance that 4 pairs of hands were not actually needed, Paige was able to provide Merlin with oral motor exercises for stronger lips and tongue movement. We did note that her affect was much brighter and she was very engaged on this visit. Kelly was able to provide a Benik for wrist support and Nicole was able to sing sweet songs to keep her calm.
We are truly blessed to visit this orphanage each year. ALL of the children are so sweet and we enjoy seeing the progress being made by Cesar and Merlin. My how they have grown! Today, we are off on a new adventure where we will be seeing 6-12 children in a nearby village.