My heart is for children – of all ages. Teenagers, toddlers, fourth graders, tweeners. To me anyone my age or younger is a child J Seeing a child smile automatically is reflected on my own face. Our nutrition program focuses on kids under the age of two who are malnourished. If they are in our program longer than this, then most likely they have something else coupled with the malnutrition. Three kids that I have seen for years are Ana, Martina and Juana. They smile when you say their name. Their arms wave when they are excited. They are familiar with the routine of being weighed and never cry. Yet they are trapped within their own bodies. They cannot communicate and have very little interaction with a world outside of their own mind. Syndromes are not readily diagnosed here and cerebral palsy cripples children at a higher rate than in the states. And so these children are most often tucked away and their failure to thrive leads to childhood mortality.
A friend was down this week who fits people in the states with wheelchairs. And so we outfitted Martina and Juana with wheelchairs adapted to their needs. Their new wheels came from a group called Wheels of Hope and it couldn’t have been more fitting ! Swimming noodles were readily used to create padding, cut by a machete and attached with cords. Martina was the first to be equipped with a new car. She has cerebral palsy and we suspect that her vision is not that well. She can hear well though and always turns her head at the mention of her name. She’ll laugh and laugh. We also have a toy rattle shaped like a bee on the scale and she recognizes this and will try and reach for it at times. Progress is progress with her and she always shows excitement when you talk with her.
We outfitted Juana at her house. She has more control over her body and can sit up. Hopefully this will give her more mobility as she becomes heavier and more difficult for her mother to carry. Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that these houses are often located on slopes or mountains and it is difficult to transport these children.
Ana’s mom loves her very much and it has been obvious that she cares for her around the house. As we worked with Ana and tested her strength and mobility I asked Ana’s mom if she had any questions. Her response was, “I would like more exercises to do with her at home.” What a welcome question as I often wonder what kind of attention these kids get at home. Are they noticed? Left alone? Abandoned? All three of these kids appear to be loved by their families. They are grateful for anything that we do to help them care for those kids that are most often lost and forgotten here in a world where survival is key.
The smiles on these girls’ faces show the joy in their hearts from the little things. And so as they rejoice, I rejoice as well as I have watched their progress for years take only tiny, tiny steps. Having a little more mobility will hopefully create a better life for them and their families.