Never underestimate the power of dreams and the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within all of us.
Today began like yesterday with Abby and Paige heading to annex with the the new sign language chart they made for Hector. They arrived just in time for snack and Paige was able to help Hector learn three new signs for more, eat, and help. Hector was able to pick up these signs with a quickness and tell Paige "help" when a pancake had fallen, "more" when he wanted more food, and "eat" to even further differentiate he wanted more pancake. Check out the TEAMworks facebook page for a sweet video of Hector using his new found signs. We are hopeful that Hectors new communciation skills will unlock the potential for more socialization and independence. In the afternoon, the team headed to the main campus where a dance party ensued. Paige and Abby were able to share the potential of the joy within each child with a simple interaction.
Our ROCKSTAR PT has converted to a speech language therapist! Abby was able to help teach simple signs to many of the children and also spent her evening programming the assistive communciation device.
Kelly began the morning on the main campus. With the help of her new friend and translator, Melissa, she was able to help out in the other OT rooms. In the first, she noticed a boy drawing intricate pictures on a pieces of paper. When she inquired whether he could copy simple shapes or write his name, the answer was no, however, the teacher let her try anyway. Within seconds Benjamin had copied multiple circles and crosses, traced his name, and written his name independently without any prompting. His teacher was shocked, and Kelly really hopes this will encourage the teacher to increase his potential for learning with more demanding tasks. During lunch, Kelly was able to eat with a young man named Jose. He was not verbal and reportedly did not interact with the staff and other residents frequently. During lunch he would make great eye contact and reach for Kelly's help to load his spoon. Once loaded, he would independently bring it to his mouth to feed himself. She is hopeful that those who witnessed these interactions will be moved to push for interaction with this sweet young man.
These last two days have been long. The progress sometimes slow, but always evident. We hope that we were able to show that with even just the smallest bit of faith, encouragement, joy, and effort that EVERY individual has the potential for greatness.
1 Peter 3:8
“Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.”
Today we returned to ABI, a government run institution we have visited 3 times prior to this visit. Each visit is different. We return each year to continue relationship building and to help the staff serve those who live there in the best way we can. We return each year in hopes that we are able to continue to come along side those who work with the residents of ABI to show compassion, ability, and potential. We can imagine that it would be very difficult day in and day out to work with individuals with such needs as those who have lived in this facility for years. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes is all it takes to see and unlock the potential of an individual. Sometimes all it takes is a display of interaction, love, and caring to rejuvinate those who are weary and disheartened. As we began our day, we prayed that we could be that rejuvination, that we would all be humble and tender hearted with our approach, and in turn, we would all be open to each other to serve those who need to be served.
That being said, we were split today with Kelly staying with the OTs throughout the day and Paige and Abby spending the day with PT and the Special Educators. Paige was able to teach a sweet boy named Hector the signs for "more" and "help" with such a quickness that you could see the joy in Hector as he was able to communicate with someone. When we returned home, Abby became our sign language model as we made a modfied sign handout. Abby was able to demonstrate ways that many of the individuals in wheelchairs could participate in fine motor and language activities by standing up to build strength. Kelly was able to put her new found ABA skills to the test by showing that even the most unmotivated, uncooperative individual could learn and participate.
We were also privileged to be part of the continued celebration for the Day of the Child! ABI brought in a clown and pinata to help celebrate, and all the residents had a fantastic time dancing and laughing together! We head back today to continue our work. Prayers for continued openness and continued relationships would be greatly appreciated!
We would also like to ask for a special prayers for our sweet Merlyn. She was displaced from another local orphanage we had previously visted to ABI without her wheelchair for improved positioning during daily activities and feeding. Additionally, we would ask for prayers that this facility would see the lgiht in her, just as her previous facility did and continue to care for her in a manner that maintains that light!
The true definition of a Blessed Day!
We began our Sunday at Leo's (our translator) home church here in Guatemala City. The church was vibrant, full of life, and exactly what we needed to begin our Sunday! We were welcomed with open arms by the congregation and although the message was in Spanish, we could feel the passion in the body of believers. From what we could gather, from the quiet translation of Leo, was the following that as the body of Christ and the extension of Jesus as a servant to others.
For we are God's handywork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)
We truly felt this was the word we needed to move forward with our day!
After chuch we were privileged to go meet Gerson, a young triathelete and his family in Chimaltenango. A year and 2 months ago, Gerson, an accomplished triathelete was involved in a bicycle wreck with another competitor and suffered a severe head injury. Through Anita, our friend and local Guatemalan contact, we were able to visit Gerson and spend several hours speaking with him and his family to help better his quality of life, advance his progress, and give encouragement to his family, who is already doing AMAZING things. Before our arrival, his dad had already fabricated a resting hand splint and a stander! We were able to show different positioning techniques in bed to improve postural alignment, cervical exercises for increased head control, and braces for better foot position.
Gerson is a bright, intellegent boy who was already able to communicate with his family with eye blinks to indicate yes and no. Paige was able to program a donated Dynavox speaking system to allow him to communicate his wants and needs using a touch screen, while Kelly and Abby problem solved how to make his arm and fine motor control more refined using a chewy "T" and iPad stylus. We will be heading back to test our whole system on Wedneday, so stay tuned...
Although we did many things within our professional scope today, the most evident lesson was that of steadfast love and hope in Christ. Gerson's family was the epitome of a family anchored in faith that their son would live and thrive!
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
Matthew 11:28New International Version (NIV)
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 New International Version (NIV)
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain..."
Hebrews 6:19 (NIV)
Hola from Guatemala! After some delays, we made it to Guatemala on Friday, September 30th and headed to our friend Diana's home for lunch and a visit from one of her sweet kiddos from the Learning Spot! Dylan had the best smile and was definitely a ladies man! He really enjoyed all the individual attention from Paige, Abby, and Kelly. We were all able to demonstrate ideas for his mother and Diana to work on at home and during therapy at Learning Spot. He came with the same AFOs he was given in 2014 and Abby was able fit him with new ones after some assistance with a blow out (via hair dryer) from Kelly. Paige was able to give oral motor exercises Diana was so excited to carry over while he is in his stander. We are always so excited to work with kiddos who have so much potential for carry over once we are gone!
Today, we headed out to a neighboring village to a community clinic. We were able to see some familiar faces and several new ones! Our first arrival was a sweet little girl with hydrocephalus and spina bifida. She was quite spicy and developmentally on target for fine motor and speech language skills but needed help with some positioning techniques. Abby and Kelly were even able to turn a knee brace into some hip helpers! Our next visitor was a sweet boy we met last fall and his mother. We brought a chair with the intention of being able to position him better, but it needed a few more tweaks then we initially anticipated. With a group effort and an enormous amount of duct tape, pool noodles, and puzzles, he was in! Once positioned correctly, Paige was able to demonstrate safer feeding techniques. We were also happy to see that he seemed happier and more relaxed than our previous visit.
We would be remiss to not highlight how big of a ROCKSTAR Abby was today! Although we intended to put on a pediatric focused community clinic, residents of the outside villages rarely get to see medical specialist and were very excited to see us. This included MANY orthopedic issues for the adults in this village. Over years of hard work in cute, yet unsupportive footwear, many of the adults had hip, knee, ankle, and foot pain. Abby was able to help so many of them with stretches, exercise, and many pairs of supportive shoes.
Overall, we were able to see 25 individuals in this community and are so grateful for the amazing hospitality of the residents who lent us their home for our "office". Additionally, we were given a large donation of art packets from Art from the Heart of Joy, which we were able to give to many of the community children. They were so excited to get their "school supplies". We look forward to returning in the future!
I started the day with the regular morning sunrise walk, which included a tour of the local Genocide Memorial that displayed 480 names. That was followed by walking past morning mass. This describes Rwanda well. A dark past with new life in Christ.
We ventured to the satellite clinic we had been to a few days earlier. I specifically worked with the head PT and showed him how to modify braces to help control pronation within the brace. He caught on quickly, and was king of the trim lines. I ended up turning that all over to him because he did so much better than I did. In the afternoon, I had the joy of a few shoe deliveries and tennis ball give-aways. Most of the afternoon was spent doing wheelchair assessments. Several kids suffered from deformities that would have required custom molded seating in the US.
Kara showed developmental therapist how to do receptive and expressive language activities, as well as articulation drills. There were more kids with low tone and oral-motor exercises were shown to parents. The parents were very appreciative of these exercises and we saw some of the kids make more sound afterwards.
Allison and Cara had a productive sweet morning educating on some stretches and importance of prone work, or time on their stomach. We saw several sweet faces and loved on all of them. In the afternoon we were able to give away our transfer board to a girl who needed it for showering. We were also able to spend time with the local occupational therapist and work with several clients she had questions on, concerning attention, manual dexterity and vision skills. We were able to hand out tennis balls to several kids and in the blink of an eye we had a mob around us shouting "ball" and holding out their hands. Best gift we brought in our suitcases!
Today was a full busy day at Gatagara!! We stayed at the center and started off our day with PT. Eric was able to treat a variety of kids with lower tone, athetoid movements, and ataxic movements. Cara and Eric co-treated and were able to educate parents on head control and handling techniques. Cara was a huge help with PT as well today. Orthotic management and co-treating was happening across disciplines! Kara and Allison were able to co-treat some kids with low tone who needed trunk and neck strengthening for breath control, as well as oral-motor exercises for tongue movements and cheek strengthening. One mother was so appreciative she hugged Kara at the end and asked us if we could stay. Speech is a novel treatment in Rwanda, as they have never heard of it before. They were very interested, and Kara was able to educate one of the OT aides to start speech with some kiddos. Eric gave suggestions for the orthopedic center on wheelchairs with 22 kids, and he still has 15 more tomorrow. Cara and Allison helped the OT problem solve on how to adapt a bathroom for a girl who was showering on the floor. Cara is making plans to build a shower chair for her. Please continue praying that we continue to build strong relationships with the therapists here and for lots of work to be done in a short amount of time.