Throughout the years, the prosthetic center we work with in La Paz Bolivia, “Centro de Miembros Artificiales” (CMA) / FUNPROBO has made many valuable connections with other medical and socially focused organizations within La Paz. When CMA receives volunteers with certain skill sets which the staff know could also be utilized in these other organizations around La Paz, the volunteers are offered the opportunity to work across multiple teams. This sharing of resources is typical of the Bolivian way of life, as it is in many developing countries where governments struggle to distribute aid.
By sharing its volunteers, CMA reaches many more Bolivians in need and simultaneously strengthens its connections with other non-profits within the sector. When every cent within the organization is donated and needs to be accounted for, these inter-sharing relationships with other non-profits are invaluable. There is of course the added bonus of enriching the volunteer’s experience; after all positive word of mouth is the strongest marketing tool of them all.
CMA’s most recent volunteer, Alana Murphy, an Occupational Therapist from the USA was offered the opportunity to share her love and labour with a number of other important charities and foundations in La Paz. Alana specializes in improving the lives of children with special needs and has been splitting her time between CMA and IDAI, a children’s orphanage for mentally and physically disabled children.
Alana arrived in Bolivia’s capital fresh faced from 8.5 months spent in Peru and Ecuador where she undertook a huge amount of self-directed work seeking out institutions which house or assist children with disabilities. Amongst other initiatives, Alana sourced reinforced cardboard to design and fabricate adaptive equipment for children, providing them with the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities.
Many of the children Alana works with have conditions, which mean they are unable to hold themselves upright and therefore lack the ability to sustain the most basic of positions. The positional equipment Alana produces minimizes the demand on the child to sustain basic positions. The equipment transforms their quality of life as they can start to play or simply interact with others. Such a resourceful and sustainable approach to the children’s care has screeds of potential.
Also attached is a picture of another little boy Alana built a chair for. See how he is able to hold eye contact in this position?
In her time with CMA, Alana has focused on enhancing the physical therapy techniques used in the rehabilitation of their patient. As well as ensuring the individual patients are prepared for all possible situations before they finish their course of therapy. In the attached image, she is with one of our patients trying out some new exercises which will make going to the bathroom with his new prosthetic easier.
The orphanage, IDAI which is exclusively for children with special needs, has benefited from Alana’s help in a number of ways. Alana has held classes with the care staff to educate them in a range of fundamental care techniques. Along with the name badge ‘developing country’ comes the inevitability that the women caring for these children day to day in the orphanage have not received the equivalent training in special needs care as staff members would be legally obligated to in more developed. In fact the training in this organization is unfortunately non-existent. What’s even sadder to hear is that the staff is working 24 hour shifts with just one rest day in between. Therefore the situation stands as overworked, tired staff with little, or no, understanding of the individual needs of the children in their care based on their varying disabilities.
To combat this and try to turn things around Alana held classes a number of classes and hands on workshops with the staff members to instill in them the basic principles which need to be considered in the care of these children. She taught them that through the development of a solid routine and physical and mental stimulation, the children would develop at their own speeds and their lives can be enhanced.
Before her time in Bolivia comes to an end, Alana will also hold a 3-day cardboard carpentry course for physical therapists, Doctors and parents associated to IDAI. The attendees will learn how to build chairs like the ones shown in the last picture, to assist the children at IDAI.
Having Alana on board at the Centro de Miembros Artificiales has added real value to the physical therapy program; but what’s more, by sharing Alana’s skills with the orphanage CMA has helped countless more children who will cross through the orphanages doors. That’s a real life example that sharing really is caring!
In December of 2014, Rolando received a new prosthetic leg, with a “LIMBS Inc.” polycentric knee, because of the generosity of our non-profit “Sending out an SOS” through funds donated by our caring organization. Here we share his story:
When Rolando was 12 years old, he loved to play as anyone his age would. One morning, while going down the slide, 4 kids piled up on top of Rolando. Rolando’s leg got hurt; however, he felt no pain on his 3 hour walk back home. The next mo…rning, his whole body became itchy and started to swell. Even though his leg started to worsen, there was no money to afford a doctor’s visit so Rolando’s mom kept trying to alleviate the pain with traditional medicines. After many unsuccessful attempts to heal Rolando’s leg and a couple of years later, he was taken to a hospital where he was diagnosed with osteomyelitis. Throughout the years, the infection worked its way up and at the age of 30 Rolando was told by the doctors that amputation would be the only option.
The trauma that meant to loose a limb regardless of how useless it was, damaged Rolando’s self steam. Living in a country where disabilities are seen as a curse and something to be ashamed of, Rolando became suicidal and hopeless. One day though, he got tired of living this way and decided to dedicate his time to help other disabled people in his village by creating a center to help others under the same predicaments– not to feel alone on their journey. This would be the best medicine for Rolando’s soul. Today, he organizes sporting events for other amputees, which brings a sense of worth and happiness for himself and many individuals in the community.
The Physical Therapy department of Centro de Miembros Artificiales has shown dramatic improvements over the last 12 months with the arrival of many experienced physical and occupational therapists. These skilled professionals include, Joe Dorne (UK), Beatrice Eggertswyler (Switzerland), Amanda Marriott (Australia), Ailsa Whyte and Alana Murphy (USA). These volunteers have been an enormous asset to our team as they shared critical expertise, helped to educate our Bolivian staff in rehabilitation techniques, and worked directly with our patients.
The patients greatly appreciate the additional one-on-one attention, and it significantly improves their confidence.
The therapists teach them strength-building skills, gait training and balance exercises.
Our volunteers also created a comprehensive evaluation template and a list of exercises that we can customize for each of our patients. The goal is for our patients to continue their exercises and therapy at home. In addition, our volunteers provided training on the following therapy techniques: lymphatic massage, scar massage, residual limb reduction and skills to improve both coordination and strength.
Our vision is to raise funds to build more equipment (i.e., walking ramp and steps) and expand the entire area. Currently, our patients practice walking (their first steps in some cases) in our driveway—which is not an ideal situation for rehabilitation. Although our physical therapy room is small and simple, a lot of dreams come true in this space…thanks to the hard work of our committed staff and so many talented volunteers.