Volunteering at Disabled Children's Hospital
Trip Start Dec 10, 2011
60Trip End Sep 29, 2012
I wait for Jael in reception for thirty minutes and then go to see the 'Pediatria' / Children's department. It has a wonderful view and a large outdoor space , also a courtyard full of children's climbing frames
I was told about each of the nine children in the class and listened carefully. I then asked questions about them and their conditions and situations. Then the doctor called a meeting just as we were feeding the children their jelly snack. The ladies asked me if I was OK to stay with them, I nodded.
There I was, on my first day, left alone and more importantly, in charge of these children
All the kids were taken to the canteen, the staff were given a Salpena which I thanks them for. Then the ladies asked if I would feed Rodrigo. More than forty five minutes later we had finished, he was a slow eater and I had to carefully hold his head and guide each spoonful into his mouth, waiting with the empty spoon to catch the dribbles and mopping up with his bib. Before I left, I helped Gretty stick some cards together for Mother's Day in Bolivia and we both chatted about music, dancing, nightclubs in Sucre ( I really want to go dancing) and then I asked again all the names of the children so I could remember and also write them down
I asked her about the hospital and how many children in total were staying here. A total of 23 stay overnight and live here with more coming as day visitors, dropped off by their families so roughly 40 children in total. Our group were all aged between three and ten years old, I enjoyed myself but also reminded me of the struggles these kids face. Barbara for example was abandoned, has autism and her Dad was a drunk with her Mother having mental illness problems. Maribel, so sweet, intelligent, understood everything but just flops over when you lift here from her wheelchair to the chair as she is paralyzed. I felt I was so lucky and I was glad to be here helping them and making them smile. The Bolivian government fund this centre, but they give 7BS a day per kid (that is about 70 pence GBP) and only up to the first two hundred kids at the whole hospital. There's currently three hundred kids here older children up to the age of eighteen, a bakery, school and gymnasium. I met other volunteers here from Denmark and Germany. The German girl made me feel very welcome and we chatted a little, it was nice someone took the time to do that I thought later.
Friday of that week was film day and we watched in Spanish Rapunzel animated film and before I knew it was time for the children's lunch and feeding them all
On my start of my second week volunteering here I was feeling a little sick and out of breath, I put it down to combination of altitude and maybe the effects of the yellow fever vaccination I had had here. On the way I was thinking I did not wish to continue at this volunteer project. It is so sad to see these children like this, in addition I found this work very hard. I think it is easier when the children are independent but once I started I realised it was such a worthwhile volunteering and that day with Gretty off sick, I was in fact very much needed. My highlight was Hugo returning and hugging me tightly most of the morning, while Crystal played with my hands and occasionally would pinch my hand or arms, I'd then see out of the corner of my eye Barbara's sweet but cheeky smile at me and Diane furiously clapping my hands together with hers over the top. When I left I got to take Nelson, who earlier spat a lot of his break time biscuit into my face and hair, for an assisted walk to the bedroom where the kids take their afternoon naps. He held on tight to my hands high above his head and took each step very well. I felt satisfied and happy to be of help here although I know it was having quite a profound effect on me seeing these children like this.
There is a much wider issue here for Bolivia's children. UNICEF reported these issues of high numbers of street children, abandonment and the culture in which children are treated in families here in Bolivia, you can read the full article here: http://www.unicef.org/bolivia/children_1540.htm
Many times sitting in one of Sucre's many cafes in the daytime or night time, street kids have come to beg for money, selling books or want to clean my trainers. I have seen young boys jostle on the street for cleaning the next man's pair of shoes, in a bid to get a bit more money no doubt to eat the next day. It's a case of survival and with not enough Government funding there are many charities at work here providing for the children of Bolivia.
To find out more about the Institute Psicopedagógico you can visit their volunteer information page here: http://www.hsjd.org/voluntariado-bolivia.php
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