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Volunteering Abroad

FVCDC staff volunteering abroad.......

The Gabriel House of Maneadaro is a dichotomy: a place where I have felt so much joy and so much tragedy.  This April, I completed my fourth trip down to this Mexican orphanage for children with special needs.  As a physical therapist with pediatric experience, it has been my delight to be able to share my skills to help meet some of the very basic needs and dreams of these very special children.

Some of the 35 kids at Gabriel House are true orphans, but most of them have either been placed there through Mexican social services, or by parents who are unable to take care of them.  In Mexico, there is no government assistance to help care for kids with disabilities, and all equipment and care needed is received through private, mostly international donations. 

So far, on my 4 trips, I have had two of my OT colleagues join me twice.  We have been able to bring down custom seating and leg braces that were donated by local companies.  We spend our 5 to 7 day long trips occupied with such things as: adapting wheelchairs and seats with ‘cannabilised‘ parts; fitting, adapting, or making braces such as AFO's (ankle foot orthotics) or wrist splints; assisting and giving suggestions to the caregivers on feeding the kids; assessing and adapting walkers and standing frames; and teaching the caregivers about positioning and exercises.

One of the kids by the name of Johanna (pseudonym) is a 10 year old girl with severe brain damage and stunted growth.  She is the size of a typical three year old.  When we first arrived, a year and a half ago, she wasn't able to face forwards in her seat as she has such a severe kyphosis (curvature of the spine) that she had to sleep on her side or face sideways in her stroller.  At the time, we fashioned a foam seat for her, facing her forwards, and had the pleasure of watching her as she stared at a painting on the wall that she was able to see for the first time!  Last November, she was measured for a new seat and I was able to deliver and fit it for her this last trip.  Now, instead of the two hours she could tolerate in the foam chair, she is content for over 4 hours.

I invite you to consider partnering with me, perhaps joining in on one of the trips, donating towards a trip for someone else to go, or donating supplies.  Visit the GH website and find other ways of showing your support.