I received a warm welcome by my staff, host family, and friends. Wilmer met me at the airport, Monday night, and In spite of flight delays all my bags and wheelchair arrived with me! Yahoo! Everything went smooth other than having to leave 25lbs of overweight items in Eugene. Thanks to Krista Jo for coming to the airport with me at 4am, taking the extra baggage, zip tying the chair together, writing my labels, and keeping me calm. Muchas gracias.
It’s been great to see the children and notice how they have developed. The staff and families have done a great job continuing the program. Many of these children had not been to school till we opened in May, so it’s not easy for them to sit and pay attention, in particular the teenagers with autism. However, I noticed greater social interaction, calmness with the familiar routine, and although brief, longer attention span. It was rewarding to hear Yerling who has Down’s syndrome begin to imitate sounds of vowels, and her friend Gina imitating actions to the itsy bitsy spider. The park we built of tires is being used well, both by the children in other classes and with our physical therapist, practicing balance, walking, climbing, strengthening, and attention building. I am pleased with the variety in our small playground, allowing children of varied abilities to enjoy it. Maria who used to cry a lot, is content almost all day. Nelson, who has autism is initiating sharing his plantain chips with peers and staff. The laughter as we play red light, green light, or toss balloons on the blanket fill my heart. The children in the rest of the school seem less scared of the children with disabilities, and continue to visit regularly.
I attempted to fit the wheelchair I brought with me for Darling. It’s never easy and I always wish my wheelchair specialist friends and PT’s were with me. Till they come I do my best, send photos, and welcome feedback. Although the chair fitted less than perfectly, Darling’s aunt told me she had a fever with excitement! Unfortunately I did not capture her great smile on my photos. In her old chair her aunt was always holding her from behind to ensure she did not fall out. I hope with the new chair her aunt can engage with her face to face.
I met with the team, who had brought pastries to welcome me. Liseth has been very conscientious tracking all the money, down to every cordoba. She has been building relationships and connections with the health center, government, minister of education, and Los Pipitos. She also organized a meeting with the parents to share resources, hear their needs, and what is going well. It was very moving to hear the parents response, tears were shed, appreciation expressed, and support provided. Parent support at its best! While i was gone 15 teachers from the area visited our class to learn about what we are doing, and as well as regular classes and physical therapy they hosted a large party! They have been busy!
It’s amazing to have such responsible, reliable, passionate, committed, creative, thoughtful, enthusiastic, energetic, positive, and fun staff. They make all the difference. In addition we have a new volunteer, Lisanne from Holland. She has been helping with the children, and is quick to pick up on strategies we are using. She has also kindly raised money from family and friends. This weekend she organised the painting of our very dark green class, to white with bright yellow trim. She received generous and ever enthusiastic help from Wilmer and his brother. I am looking forward to seeing it on Monday. She also made some beautiful and cheerful mobiles, and cut out felt shapes for story time. Dank u vell Lisanne, her family, and friends!
I went to Masaya today looking for classroom supplies, crutches, walkers, and wheelchairs. Success on every front except the wheelchairs. I have another contact in Managua. So hope to follow up with this soon. It is such an honor to be able to meet some of the needs of the children with disabilities in La Concepcion. Thanks to you for your generosity!