WEEK #2 Marymount Education Students Arrive.

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

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Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Alajuela,
Monday, May 27, 2013

EDUCATION STUDENTS ARRIVE at MANOS ABIERTAS, May 18th, my 6 education students arrived. Excited and nervous. They are not in the special education program at Marymount; they are general education pre-service teachers who volunteered to come here to complete requirements for Intro to Teaching Students with Disabilities course I teach. Marymount volunteers are Sarah Cotsonas, Courtney Oehl, Katelyn Breen, Whitney Field, Lauren Gradowski, and Danielle Pramick.

FLEXIBILITY Since this is the first time Marymount education students have come to Manos Abiertas, the operative word is "f-l-e-x-i-b-i-l-i-t-y". You think of Costa Rica and you think vacation. This is not a vacation. 
SURPRISE # 1: The first lesson in flexibility came early on when I learned Laura, the special education teacher, had injured herself in an accident, was unable to walk, and  would not be able to work with us this week. So my students and I would have to conduct classes with lesson plans Laura provided and the schedule she and I had planned last week. 
 I speak enough Spanish to get by, but my students do not.
We would be helping the Manos Abiertas residents with their daily living chores and exercise in the early morning, then conduct their academic classes and craft project sessions in the afternoon. 

ORIENTATION, PHYSICAL THERAPY, & SALSA LESSONS: On Sunday Sonia Hernandez gave us a tour of Manos Abiertas and then an orientation on safety and other expectations, e.g., no cerverza.
Dr. Diana Venskus conducted a lesson about of the residents' prevalent neurological conditions that affect their fine and gross motor control and demonstrated physical therapy techniques we could use especially to promote usage of inert upper extremities.
CUIDADO J-LO. The orientation day ended with salsa lessons back at the hotel. We sweated a lot.
I RESCUE AN IGUANA. We also had a visit from the iguana next door who took one look at us gringos and decided to dive into the Hotel pool where he proceeded to almost drown. Someone has photos of me rescuing him from that fate.
MU STUDENTS MEET MANOS ABIERTAS RESIDENTS.  It would take Shakespeare to describe what happened this week, how we interacted with the students at Manos Abiertas, to describe each resident in a way that would capture their unique qualities, their tenderness, capacity for joy, their innocence, their kindness towards us and each other, their humor, their creativity, their earnestness but especially their prodigious efforts to connect with us.
HECHO por MANOS ESPECIALES, CRAFT PROJECTS. The residents enjoyed the craft projects as much as we enjoyed helping them make them. Though we assisted them with fine motor support, they needed no help with creativity. In every aspect of each project residents made their own creative decisions.  

LAS MASCARAS was MU grad student Danielle Pramick's project. When Diego, the administrator who helps Sister Marlena run Manos Abiertas, saw the masks, he exclaimed, "Carnival !!" And a fiesta was planned to be the culminating activity for our visit -- There was music, dancing, and all the residents' craft projects were displayed
They taught us PATIENCE because they were patient with us. They taught us persistence, they taught us to wait and watch. They taught us not to judge because they are not judgmental. They taught us learning has no limits if we teach with our hearts. 

Most of all we felt humbled by their gracious warmth....and what they taught us about being human.

Here's a quote from one of the MU education student's reflection.
"...Despite the suffering and the pain, the place was filled with pure love -- and honestly that is the only way I could explain it. It helped me to understand what is to come for me professionally and what it means to be human. I would encourage all education students to experience this no matter their concentration... "

THE REST of the STORY....For the rest of the story, how the residents changed us, maybe you need to visit Manos Abiertas or volunteer with a local organization such as The ARC. .. or look at the pictures on this blog and imagine, ok? 
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Tess Cappello on

Thank you Doug for a reminder of what can be done with nothing if you have faith and love.

Lenelle on

This was reminiscent of stopping to smell the roses. Such oportunities to share abound, but are too often passed by in the rush of, well, rushing. Thank you Doug. i bet the iguana also thanks you!

Meaghan Walsh on

So inspiring!

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