This past week was supposed to be an “off” week from work teams for me, but instead I had the opportunity to translate for a team that came down through our church. The team had several physical therapists and an occupational therapist, so they were working at a special needs home down in Guatemala City. This was the first government run home that I had ever been in and it was a little scary getting started, but then it was fun!! I pretty much hopped in wherever translating was needed, so I got to see quite a few different activities and aspects of the home!
Every day, the workers take some of the kids (and adults) from the home on a walk. The facilities are rather tight, so this gives everyone a chance to get out and see the world a little bit. I went along on the walk three days and it was quite an experience! It was interesting watching those in the community interact with those walking. Some were very receptive to saying “hi” and giving high-fives, others waited until we passed to even leave their houses. Overall it seemed like those that went on the walk (both team members and kids) really enjoyed the experience, even if it gave people some gray hairs!!
One of the main jobs that the team tackled was re-vamping some of the wheelchairs. Many of the children were slumped over in their chairs, sliding all over the place and really not adequately positioned or equipped for sitting. I am not blaming anyone for this at all, the workers were doing the best that they could with the materials that they had! Anyways, the team made adjustments to the wheelchairs and helped the kids to be at least a little more comfortable in their chairs. It was amazing how much of a difference even the smallest adjustments made!! In addition to the adjustments, the team was teaching the workers some stretches and exercises that can be done with the kids.
|Just chillin' in his improved chair.|
|G-Man loves his chair!!|
So often teams come down and focus all their work and time on those in the home, but they neglect to recognize the workers and all that they do. This team actually did a “spa” time for the workers of the home; manicures, pedicures, massages, etc. The workers at this specific home really have a very hard job. I would go home each evening completely exhausted and emotionally spent; I cannot imagine how they manage to keep going. I was talking to several of the workers though and some of them had been working at this home for 4-5 years!! They really do love these kids, but it was obvious some of them needed a break. This time was really a blessing to many of the workers, and the team members as well.
When going into the home the first day, I really had no idea what to expect. I knew that they had people ranging from 4 years old to 50 years old in the home and that all of them had either a mental or physical (or both) disability, but otherwise I was clueless, and quite scared!! I stepped off the bus on my first day (team’s second day) and was immediately greeted by 10-15 adults wanting hugs and to say hi. Seeing adult males coming for a hug with drool running from their mouth (literally) made me wonder what in the world I was doing, but I very quickly learned that they were (mostly) harmless and really a lot of fun!!
We made our way to the younger kids and I was once again not sure how to react to seeing all of the kids. Some were propped up in their wheelchairs, not really moving, drooling and staring off into the distance. Others were sitting on the floor, making some noise, rocking and hitting their heads on the floor. There were only a few playing with the toys that were scattered around and acting “normal”. My first instinct was to go back to the bus and wait there for the day, but instead I went and sat down with several of the children. By the end of the week those little ones had a place in my heart and they were perfect despite their disabilities.
|Sweet girls, she's 12 years old!|
As the week came to a close, I found myself wrestling with so many different emotions. Ok, we were here for a week, some wheelchairs got fixed, kids stimulated, and workers blessed, but what will that really do in the future? If these kids had daily stimulation, they could be so much more advanced and able to live semi-normal lives! If these workers had others to talk to and had reminders about how much they are appreciated, how would they change? But you know what? Every hour that we spent with the kids was an hour more than they had before. Every encouraging word that was spoken to the workers was a little more encouragement than they had before. And I don’t know about the rest of the team, but I came away from that week with a different heart and a new appreciation for the body that God gave me to use to honor and glorify Him!