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!