Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Haiti Day 2 morning (July 3)

We started our morning with an orientation meeting, then we went downstairs to work with the kids at the Miriam Center.

The Miriam Center is an orphanage for children with special needs.  They currently are taking care of 47 children in the Miriam Center.  I have the utmost respect and admiration for the women who run the Miriam Center, who dedicate nearly every minute of every day to caring for these children who have been rejected from most of Haitian society.

The Miriam Center is divided into two groups.  There is a group of children whom they call "severe and profound."  These are children who cannot walk or sit up or talk or eat or do anything on their own.  Several of them are shaped like a backwards C, so that they cannot even lay on their backs.  I believe that cerebal palsy is one of the main conditions for many of them.

On our team, we had an occupational therapist and a speech therapist, and those two felt right at home among these kids.  I was not so comfortable.  Working with children with special needs does not come naturally to me.  I just don't know what to to hold them, how to talk to them, etc.  So I was nervous upon first entering this room.  However, I found that it was easier than I thought.  Even though they can't do much physically on their own, many of these children were responsive.  All you have to do is smile or hold their hand and they will give you the biggest smile in return.

We brought in a bubble machine, and it seemed to be a big hit with these kids.
 The other group of children in the Miriam Center are more self-sufficient.  Again, cerebral palsy is a common condition with these kids as well as autism.  That first morning in the Miriam Center, I worked with these kids.  Walking into the room, they were all eager to greet me and play with me.  If you ever have a problem with low self-confidence, just hang out with some Haitian children.  They will make you feel like the coolest person in the world! =)
The first kid I noticed was this little guy named Ti Willy.  He was scooting around and trying to play with every toy he could find in the room.  I immediately started crying when I saw him, because his scooting reminded me of Isla.  I was very emotional on this trip, which is uncharacteristic for me.  I really missed my girls a lot and had a much harder time leaving them than I anticipated.  So I found myself teary eyed quite often as I played with these kids and remembered my girls at home.
 Shortly after I started playing with Ti Willy, this sweet little girl named Rachel came up to me.  She ran into my arms and gave me a hug, squeezing my neck just like Audrey does.  And the tears started all over again!
Julie is the OT that was a part of our team.  I was watching her work with some of the kids, stretching and moving their muscles.  I had a flashback to Isla's early days of physical therapy, and then I started crying again.  (Seriously I was an emotional wreck this week, it was crazy!). 
 We have worried so much about Isla and her development.  Sitting in that room, looking around at those precious kids, I realized how silly all of our worry was.  Surrounded by kids whose limbs are crooked and tangled, who cannot walk or sit or talk, who will probably spend the rest of their lives in the room where they were currently sitting, it was just so clear.  Isla is fine.  She is just fine.  There is nothing to worry about.   All my concerns seem ridiculous and silly in light of the bigger problems that these Haitian kids face every day.  Who cares if she can't crawl?  She can move around and sit up and experience so much more than these kids will ever have the chance to do.

The kids in the Miriam Center are fortunate.  They are loved, they have food and clothes, a place to stay, and they do receive medical care and therapy.  Many kids with special needs in Haiti are just thrown to the curb and left for dead.  Again, I cannot express my gratitude enough to the people who are dedicating their lives to making life better for this group of special needs children.


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