Paula is an experienced physiotherapist from the UK, who has taken time out of her NHS career to experience living and volunteering in Mexico.
Paula is volunteering in a centre supporting disabled children from some of the most disadvantaged families in Puerto Vallarta, working with local therapists in Mexico for 12 weeks.
Not only is it a chance to enjoy everything that Mexico has to offer, from the surf beaches of Sayulita, to the colour, sound and smells of the vibrant city. It is also an opportunity to pass on specialist skills and alternative practices to the local staff, and a professional insight to physiotherapy in Mexico.
Apologies for not emailing sooner, my days seem to be very full and go very quickly. The hot weather suits me very well, I am definitely not suffering I assure you. I love Mexico. It’s chaotic but not hectic. I love the houses and the cobbled streets and all the smells from the street food. I love the colour of the Mexicans skin, I think it is utterly beautiful. People are generally very well mannered and respectful, and laugh easily.
It is a joy living with Justina and her family. Justina is easy to get along with and she is a fabulous cook. It’s exciting each day wondering what I will get, and so far I haven’t had the same things twice. Justina’s 5 year old is friendly and confident and helps me a lot with my Spanish. It’s a really lively vibrant neighbourhood and I feel at home.
Spanish lessons are great, Lupeta is a fantastic teacher and the hour flies by. The lessons are a big help as I always have lots of questions for her about things I’ve heard people say or about instructions I need to be able to tell the children. I have realised that 3 months won’t be long enough to get a decent grasp of the language though.
I have been making the most of my spare time, getting out and about. I have been to Sayulita the last two weekends, I love it there. I shall probably go again this Sunday and take enough money with me for a surf lesson.
Working at the project is wonderful. We get there at around 8.30, unload the children from the buses and give them their breakfast then we have ours (this is not a good project for weight-watching!) Then we do physio with the more disabled ones until 1. We then have our lunch (the food is superb and big portions) then feed the children. I really enjoy this. Afterwards we clean the therapy room then help with making the children presentable (hair etc) before loading them back up and travelling back to PV for around 4. The driver plays Mexican music on the way back and him and the other staff sing and chat and laugh. I have told them I will learn the lyrics to my favourite song before I leave.
Something that has come as a surprise is that they actually have quite a few physios. In fact there is a full time permanent physio who has been with them from the beginning, a full time massage therapist, and then they have between 2 and 4 newly qualified that have to do a years service post grad to complete their qualification.
I am having a wonderful time and I am seeing some real improvements with a couple of the children I am working with. One little girl would spend the first 10 minutes crying so I had to just cuddle her and sing her songs but now she smiles when she sees me and laughs during her treatments. Last week she managed to stay sitting up all by herself for the first time. Moments like that are why I love my profession so much. Even if that is all she achieves it will make such a difference to her quality of life.
I met up with a Mexican physio last week who works for a uk charity. They run a hydrotherapy programme which will start again mid March. It is just one day a week so I am planning to help out with that as they are desperate for help.
A couple of weeks ago I went out to the home of the massage therapist to see his nephew who has a brain injury from an assault 2 years ago. He had been struggling with repeated chest infections so I went and assessed him and taught his aunt how to do chest physio and gave some advice. That was immensely rewarding and I am now good friends with the massage therapist (who is blind and amazing!)
So i feel that I am making a small difference by being here and from a personal perspective I have got so much from the experience already.
Best wishes, Paula”
For more information about this project see the project description or view all projects suitable for volunteers with an interest in physiotherapy