Volunteer therapists aid Guatemalan orphans
Small changes can make a big difference in a child’s life, particularly for orphans with special needs who are receiving little or no medical care at Guatemala’s orphanages.
“A lot of the children are in wheelchairs and they are older and they’ve been in these positions for a long time so they’re just kind of stuck,” said Charity Williams, a physical therapist from Fayetteville, Ark., who went to Guatemala in June with three colleagues to serve as volunteers at various orphanages.
“There is a lot of contracture, so there is not a lot that we can do to help them,” Williams added. “We can position them better to speak, and to eat, and to interact with the other children.”
Williams and her colleagues, occupational therapist Kelly Yates, development therapist Carol Harlan, and trip coordinator and photographer Blanca Garcia, are part of TEAMworks, a group of physical, occupational, and speech therapists who volunteer in different parts of the world to help improve the lives of special needs children.
“One thing that I was really impressed during the trip was with the physical therapists who joined us,” said Dr. Laura Martin, a WebMD medical editor who traveled to Guatemala with Mike’s Angels. “They spent time with the kids. They delivered supplies such as leg braces and wheelchairs.”
Martin, who brought her mother Barbara and her two teenage daughters Martinique and Margo on the Guatemala trip, was struck by the limited medical help available to the orphans.
“There is a lot of scarcity of resources; so even though the kids get loved they may not be getting the medical attention that they really need,” she observed.
“There are many kids out there that I noticed that have special needs,” Martin added. “Some couldn’t walk without assistance. Some were wheelchair bound and needed assistance with every activity of daily living.”
“We’ve been working with the children and making little things that will make big differences,” said Williams.
“Our highlight was a boy that wasn’t walking last year when the team came,” Williams explained. That team “provided him with a walker, and this year when we went out to their home, he met us walking out without anything. And that was just the biggest blessing and I would say one of the highlights of this trip.”