WEEK 1, Getting Ready at Manos Abiertas

Trip Start May 11, 2013
Trip End Jun 08, 2013

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Where I stayed
Briila Sol Hotel

Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Alajuela,
Monday, May 13, 2013

Synopsis: I arrived Saturday, May 11, to work at Manos Abiertas with Laura Rodriguez, their excellent special education teacher. We had planned to work together during the first week  to prepare for the arrival of my six students, 3 graduate and 3 undergraduates from Marymount's Department of Education, who would be assisting her with classroom activities. 
Fundacion Hogar Manos Abiertas is a total care facility for children and adults who have severe disabilities and who were abandoned. There are 100 residents ranging from 10 months to 90 years old. It was founded and is run by Sisters of the Sacred Heart. There is a small medical and educational professional staff and the Sisters rely on volunteers and financial donations to maintain their services,  www.manosabiertas.org 

THE RESIDENTS: Residents are treated with respect and human dignity. I call it love therapy. So rather than an institutional atmosphere, Manos Abiertas has a distinctly heartfelt family atmosphere. No pictures of the residents faces will be included in this blog to protect their confidentiality.

There's a small classroom at Manos Abiertas where my students will be working with Laura and her students. 
With the help of Abdi, a team leader from International Service-Learning (ISL) Laura and I unpacked the arts and crafts materials I'd carried with me from the States. These materials were purchased with funds provided by Marymount's Student Chapter of Council for Exceptional Children.

We organized the crafts projects my education students had selected for activities in the classroom at Manos Abiertas. 

  Most Manos Abiertas students have both severe cognitive and physical disabilities, the latter typically due to cerebral palsy. Many use wheelchairs due to limb paralysis.  Fine and gross motor skills are signifcantly limited.

Few residents have expressive language capabilities. Gestures, invented sign language, and vocalizations are their predominate means of communication. 

THE CRAFT PROJECTS we selected craft projects relatively easy to make and that would promote fine motor as well as academic skills development.
Most Manos Abiertas students can only use one hand, their other upper extremity affected by neurological conditions. Manual grip is in most cases limited and will require much hand-over-hand support.;
DEAF! BLIND! PARALYSIS....During the first week I observed Laura's lessons to reacquaint myself with her students, most of whom I'd met last year when I visited Manos Abiertas. At Diana Venskus' recommendation I also spent a day assisting Mira, the physical therapist. I helped lift and transport residents for their bathing, put on their braces, worked with Mira during her one-on-one sessions in the physical therapy room, and also helped with massages. This close contact with the residents was a unique part of the preparation week for me. I gained a broader perspective as well as a more specific understanding of the facility care regimen as well as the nature of the residents' physical abilities and disabilities. Mira often asked for my advice with many of the residents' needs, especially with communication. One resident I enjoyed working with is deaf, blind, uses a wheel chair, and has the use of only one hand. But HOW he uses that hand to interact with his world! I've never experienced interacting with anyone like him before. I helped Mira with a strategy for developing a communication system for him (cf Anne Sullivan).

PREVIEW WEEK # 2: MU students arrive, Laura has a serious injury, what the residents taught us; the CRAFT PROJECTS! And a fiesta at Manos Abiertas.
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