Working with disabled children to make a difference in Mexico
This project is a lifeline for over 100 families who use it to look after their children during the day. It was founded in 2000 by a determined group of mothers who were desperate to have a place where their disabled children could receive decent levels of care and attention. it is now a well funded programme that has moved to larger premises in 2017.
The children suffer from acute physical and psychological illnesses and many are unable to enter the mainstream education system. By providing a safe place for these children during the day, both parents are able to go out to work. This extra income is essential for many families who live on the breadline. Without it, the quality of life for the family and the child would spiral down further.
Physiotherapy and occupational therapy is given by local therapists. Some of the therapeutic practices are different from contemporary practices in more advanced healthcare settings, and experienced volunteers can share best practice or specialist skills with the existing staff.
The project offers a huge range of essential services including physical rehabilitation, psychological care, nutrition and much more. It is a registered non-profit organization that makes no charges to the children’s families and depends therefore upon international donations to fund the basics, and volunteers to help provide additional layers of care and support.
It is an ideal project for any volunteer contemplating a career working with disabled children, or for a part qualified or qualified physiotherapist or occupational therapist looking to broaden their experience. It would also be a project for speech and language therapist, although there are no SLTs on site.
In 2017, Paula, an experienced physiotherapist from the UK worked at the centre for 12 weeks:
“I achieved some good results with the children I worked with in terms of function. I hope that my more gentle approach was adopted and this will have a lasting impact. As an extra member of staff I helped significantly with the overall workload of caring for the children. I taught the Mexican physios new techniques, in particular respiratory physio. And a bit of English!
All the Mexicans that work at this project are lovely. I made genuine friendships and we socialised out of work. The children that attend the centre receive excellent care, stimulation, therapy, nutrition and love. There would be nothing else available to them if this project didn’t exist.
Thank you for providing me with such a fantastic opportunity. I felt so well supported by you and Greta all the way through and it was all so well organised.
Best wishes, Paula”.
Read more about Paula’s experience in 2017.
Volunteers work from 08:00 until 16:00, assisting the permanent staff with a wide range of educational, therapeutic and stimulating recreational activities. Children are also prepared for studying in mainstream schools and where possible given life skills to facilitate access to the job market. These activities are sometimes undertaken as whole class activities but volunteers are often given groups of just two or three children / young adults to supervise.
Inexperienced, unqualified volunteers would work alongside the local staff and be given basic training in areas like basic massage in order to help make a useful contribution. Increased responsibilities would be offered to those volunteers demonstrating the right level of competence and commitment.
Qualified volunteers would be expected to take on a more leading role and would hopefully be in a position to share some practices with local staff in order to make a more lasting impact.
Paula says:- “You need to be proactive and “get stuck in” as no-one will really direct you as to what you should be doing (I believe this is a Mexican thing!). However, there is plenty to do so keeping busy is not difficult. I had the attitude that I was there to help in any way possible and I was very open to the fact that some things would be done differently than the UK. I soon became part of the team.”
Qualified and part qualified volunteers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists and art therapists in particular make an impact because they bring skills that are in short supply.
Non-qualified volunteers are also really helpful because the children need so much support, and the help of volunteers means more time can be spent with each individual, giving more care, love and attention to each child. Ideally the children would have one on one attention, but this is only available with plenty of volunteers.
I’m hoping you remember me …. I was just looking at your website and remembering what a fantastic time I had there. One that will stay in my memory forever, Student, Mexico