As some of you may already know, I spent the past month in Cusco volunteering at a caregiving home that looks after children and adults with disabilities. In many cases, the children and adults are abandoned and left to fend for themselves, as they are no longer seen as useful to their families. This experience is often times traumatic for the children, and many of them who end up arriving have neverbeen given the proper therapy they need to grow and develop as a functioning individual. The caregiving home not only welcomes them with a place to sleep, but also provides nutritious meals and the therapy they need to either maintain their current status or develop as much as possible if they are young enough. In the one month I was there, I was able to witness a young girl who looks no more than three years old (but is in fact 11, and has a rare form of dwarfism called Chondrodysplasia), gain enough strength in her legs to walk with minimal support. I saw a young boy improve his ability to socialize with others, and rather than spending his time hurting those that take attention away from him, I saw him give hugs and kisses. For over twenty children with distinct needs and disabilities, there is only one therapist to do the immense amount of work it takes to see this progress. Though we are not all continuously available to help throughout the year, volunteers provide the much needed daily support to lift the children out of their wheelchairs and onto the mattresses sprawling across the floor of the therapy room. We help provide the individual attention and love that so many of these kids yearn for and deserve.
On the days (or weeks) that volunteers are not available, it is physically impossible for the one therapist to lift each child out of their wheelchair and perform adequate therapy on everyone. Some of the children are in their 20s and are no longer light enough for a single person to safely carry them. Even with the help of another volunteer, a team lift can not only be painful for the therapist or volunteer, but also dangerous for achild with scoliosis or contracted limbs as their body is rigidly fixed in a certain position. There are five different mattresses butted up against each other across the floor, each covered with blankets, pillows, toys, and of course children.It is terrifyingly easy to trip or get your foot lodged between the mattresses, causing you to lose your balance with the child in your hands. Furthermore, lifting anything,especially more than 30 pounds, from something as low as the mattresses can be severely detrimental to one’s back.
I hope that with the money raised through this GoFundMe, we can purchase a portable hoist/lift that can aid in lifting and placing the children in the therapy room, or even in their bed to go to sleep. Some examples of what we are considering:
If there are extra funds, I hope that we can also purchase new wheelchairs for the older children who not only have outgrown theirs, but currently sit on ones that are broken and no longer safe for the child to be using. I will update the group throughout the fundraising process - once we have agreed upon the exact lift we would like to purchase, as well as once we buy it and when it arrives at the caregiving home! We will be gifting these items directly to the facility via the help of our local team leaders in the Ubelong volunteer organization whom I worked with. I know that this could make a significant impact in the lives of the therapist, the volunteers, and of course the children that have absolutely stolen a place in my heart!
Though I would love to share photos of all those that this project would help, many of the children are not mentally or physically able to provide consent of sharing their images online so I have chosen to omit those. I have, however, included some photos of me with Ruth (22) and Zoyla(18) laying on the mattresses in the therapy room. Both girls have cerebral palsy and though they are not able to verbally communicate or walk, they are able to understand everything around them. They laugh at absolutely everything –whether somebody says a joke or whether somebody trips and fall –these two are always giggling with the most beautiful smile. At the end of one month when I told them it was my last day, the two of them (next to each other) wrapped their arms around me and held me tight so I wouldn’t leave.
Please consider donating as much or as little as you’d like, but do know that the money will go to a wonderful cause that is close to my heart.
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