Guest Post by Jean Wetherilt
In occupational therapy we often refer to the adaptive response, described as the interaction between an individual and the environment in which the individual meets the demands of the task. The “Adaptive response” took on new meaning both personally and professionally as I walked the cobblestone streets of Antigua and Santa Maria de Jesus, Guatemala. I learned from the wonderful people in those communities including the children and families, the staff and volunteers of New Life School and the best teacher and translator ever, Megan Lewis!
Experiencing the daily life of Guatemalan children gave me a different perspective of pediatric occupational therapy. Many years of working with children have been focused on my Americanized views of the occupations of children: to develop independence, to learn through play and an education, and to be social beings. In Guatemala, where living conditions are significantly different than in the U.S., these occupations are similar but also uniquely different. For example, play looks different. In the market, I watched siblings wrestle behind their mama’s table, while another little girl gathered up her pile of plastic spoons to pretend to sell them, using what she saw her mother do daily as a model of this play task. In the therapy room at New Life School, I watched a boy build his version of Antigua, a nearby town that he has heard of but may never visit, with wooden blocks. On rooftops little girls played house as they did the real household chores of hanging laundry on lines with their stuffed bunny wrapped on their back like their mothers care for their babies.
In Santa Maria de Jesus, the school day ends at noon because children are needed at home, in the fields and in the market to help their families make money and survive. The family unit is the priority in this culture, different from the U.S., which means children and adults collaborate together to ensure survival. Unfortunately, the important daily activities rarely include play like we may expect it to look here in the U.S. I saw situations children needing to grow up fast in order to take care of their siblings at a young age, do all household chores, and manage adult activities and responsibilities. Most of the children we worked with have not had a chance to have a carefree childhood that we, in the US, might hope for all children. One night while walking through a market I saw a toddler of about 2 years of age, propped against a fence asleep while his mom sold her wares. Some extremely unfortunate and dire situations lead to children being taught to not only beg but also steal from tourists.
In order to be culturally relative, Megan’s school-based and community-based occupational therapy services have had to adapt. Activity analysis is something occupational therapists use to determine the developmental milestones and necessary skills needed for a child’s daily life and occupations. In this culture the therapist’s mindset is focused on examining tool use in their homes and fields, household tasks including gathering water and food, sweeping the dirt floor, learning to tie knots in rope to go around bundles of wood, carrying large baskets to the market and taking care of younger siblings. Education becomes a second priority and seen as a luxury when survival is on the mind of children and parents. Learning to read and being educated is slowly becoming a cultural value and occupation of children. One of my favorite memories from my trip was watching 3 children in a social skills group learn to jump rope together! It was sweet because none of them have had the fun opportunity to play in such a way, a new occupation for sure!
On these cobblestone streets, the reality for children is harsh, the demands of the tasks they perform every day are great but the children are adapting, learning, and growing! GOT ministries is adapting as well, continuing to be intentional regarding cultural expectations and determining best practice for serving and investing in the children and families they serve. Please pray for the therapists, the staff, occupational therapy interns and most of all the children. May they learn the steadfast love of a heavenly Father who created us all to work, play and love one another.
My name is Sarahi Lerma. I am an occupational therapy student from Northern Arizona University with a bachelor's degree in life sciences and a minor in sociology.
My family comes from several small towns in Mexico with limited resources for appropriate healthcare services, such as therapies, and I have personally experienced how this has a great impact on quality of life. Through these experiences I have found my love for occupational therapy and I am very passionate about giving back to communities with limited resources in sustainable ways.
In the past I have volunteered and worked in programs for children with special needs such as summer camps, special events, foster care, respite care and habilitation services. For the past 2 years I have been gymnastics instructor helping kiddos from the ages of 4 months to 12 years grow physical, social and cognitive skills in a positive and non-competitive environment. I am very excited to work with GOT Ministries to learn new skills that will help me become a better servant leader and for the opportunity to work with amazing kiddos.
Sydney, another dedicated GOT Ministries student
To say that our occupational therapy (OT) students are a big part of our mission is an understatement. That is why we are so intentional about who we accept into our ministry. We have been so blessed by 4 incredible OT students so far from various Universities around the US, who have given their all to our work and to the children we serve in Santa Maria de Jesus.
To say that they are different when they return from Guatemala is also an understatement. These young graduate students go with many expectations and with various life views; when they return, they have matured greatly both personally and professionally. These future professionals return to the states, with a new perspective and with a holistic view of what it means to serve their community through occupational therapy. Our occupational therapy students have learned more about themselves through there partnership with GOT and service in Guatemala, so that when they do enter the professional world in the States, the service they will be providing is at a higher level.
Sydney Marable has been no exception. She returned to the states in the beginning of December after 3 months of service with GOT Ministries. We are so grateful for her and her dedication to our kiddos. She served 26 children, both students from New Life School and children from the community of Santa Maria de Jesus. She provided 30 hours of direct service to the children on our caseload per week, seeing some children twice a week. In addition to these hours spent with the children, she worked many hours preparing, documenting, and planning for her visits. Our OT students work very hard and put in many hours to provide the best service that the children deserve. We are beyond grateful for their service, and our opportunity to invest in their learning and development. GOT Ministries supervises their therapy services, teaches them all aspects of our service to the community of Santa Maria de Jesus, educates on the important cultural similarities and differences, as well as invests in their personal journey while serving in a third world country. We have been so proud of the OT students who have returned after our partnership; they are making a difference in their work, and sphere of influence because of this life changing, and wonderful experience.
Thank you to those who have made our partnerships possible; to those who help us to be on the ground in Guatemala truly serving and sharing the message of love and hope.
"I think the biggest impact has been on how I see myself. I feel more confident in my ability to be an Occupational Therapist but also to exist as myself. I feel stronger and more able to deal with challenges on my own"
University of New Mexico
Served with GOT during Fall 2018
THEN AND NOW with GOT MINISTRIES
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God!
1 John 3:1a
We have served in Santa Maria de Jesus for 7 years total, and officially as GOT Ministries since 2016. Our mission is to empower and serve the children with disabilities in Guatemala. The vision creates a journey of relationship and investment. Here are two stories, from THEN to NOW, that demonstrate the progress and change that can be seen by consistently serving the same community of children and families.
Rosario started in therapy with no capacity to interact with others, demonstrated aggressive behaviors towards her mother, brother, and even the dogs in the streets. She rarely if ever left her home and never experienced basic play like many other children. She urinated in the therapy room 4 times during her first visit, would only play in her slobber on the ground, and screamed often as a way of communicating.
Rosario has made so many gains, it is hard not to cry every time I think of how far she has come!!! She responds when hearing her name, she loves playing with water, and even makes eye contact with us often!! She attends to a toy or task with us for about 5 minutes and spends time on the toilet to work on potty training!!!!!!!! She also learned “soft touch,” and we encourage her verbal communication when she makes soft noises.
Eymi relied completely on others when we met her; she stayed at home and did not socialize. She was not allowed to go to school, because she couldn't walk like the other children. Eymi was born with spina bifida which caused a paralysis of some of the muscles in her legs and feet, as well as the muscles required for toileting.
She is 6 years old now and just graduated kindergarten! She is learning how to take care of her new donated AFOs, that will help her ankle stability when walking with her walker! Eymi also works on asking for help, taking care of her personal hygiene with her diaper management, and socializing with her peers.
Please consider sponsoring therapy for a child like Eymi, Rosario, and so many more. We need your help to make the 1200 hours of therapy possible for 2019. Each therapy visit only costs $30 to provide- Simply fill out the pledge card included with this letter indicating how many visits you would like to sponsor.
Organization at its finest.
GOT Ministries is back in Guatemala with our Occupational Therapy (OT) student from New Mexico University, Sydney. We arrived a little over a week ago, and are thankful for our time here.
When we arrive, there is much to organize, coordinate, and communicate. All with the goal to empower and serve children with disabilities in Guatemala.
We did start this trip with a lovely visit with a young girl named Sienna, who is blind. Sydney and I evaluated her skills and created a plan to support her independence in daily life, success in school with technology, and socialization with her peers. Because Sienna lives about 45 minutes away, we will continue to work with her every other week to support educational success and independence.
From then on, oh the organization!
When we arrived in Antigua, we organized and settled into our new temporary homes. Then, we journeyed up the mountain to Santa Maria de Jesus as soon as we could. The first day's goal was to finish organizing and cleaning our Occupational Therapy room on the third floor of New Life School, a school specifically for children with disabilities.
Check out our beautiful Occupational Therapy clinic! A HUGE THANK YOU to all of you who provided gifts for therapy equipment, and for our Envision Trip Team who helped organize and make the room beautiful!
The next step was to organize the information we get from all of the amazing faculty at New Life School, and figure out our caseload of kiddos. So, we chatted with the teachers, psychologist and families to catch up on how the school year is going for the children we served in February through April. We then begin observing the children in the classrooms and ask more questions from the New Life School staff. This allows us to develop the complete list of children we will serve for the next three months through our amazing OT student, Sydney.
Next week, we begin a full caseload and will be working directly with the kiddos from the New Life School in the morning, and younger children from the community in the afternoons. We teach adaptive strategies for daily living tasks like tying shoes or dressing, as well as modifications to help the children pay attention in class, increase their self confidence, and even socialize with their peers. With our little kiddos in the afternoon, we get to address things like communication, basic developmental milestones like rolling, playing and holding their heads up, and behavioral modifications like visual schedules or a reward system within the home.
All of the organization, work, and coordination is so worth it when moments like this happen.....
Our friend Abner, who we have worked with for over a year, found us in an extremely large crowd in the market at Santa Maria de Jesus (during an Independence Day celebration) and ran over to us to say hello and to give us a hug! Given, we were the only "gringas" there at this celebration, but it was such a sweet moment for us :)
We love you and thank you for your partnership in this ministry through your prayer, financial gifts, and encouragement, because we could not do this work without YOU!!!
GOT Ministries Director
Your dollars really are making a difference!
My heart is forever changed by the week I spent with the GOT Ministries team and the students, families and staff at New Life School.
Thank you for donating to this ministry. Thank you for bringing hope to those who don’t know where to turn. Thank you for being the hands and feet of Christ.
I have volunteered and worked for various organizations which support this population including summer camps, after school programs, and respite work. I got my bachelor’s in Signed Language Interpretation and worked for the public schools for a short time before beginning graduate school. When I heard about the opportunity to travel to Guatemala with GOT ministries I knew that it would be an incredible way to learn and give back.
I feel excited about the chance to learn another language, experience a new culture, and challenge myself.
GOT Ministries has had the privilege to work with Alvaro for three months this year though the job skills program created and implemented by our doctorate level Occupational Therapy student, Admeth. Alvaro is a 4th grader who enjoys playing with friends, eating bean sandwiches during recess, and learning in school. When we first met him, Alvaro had difficulty making eye-contact and had little confidence in himself to participate during the job skills workshop groups. He has had surgery in the past to remove a brain tumor, and has slowly but surely overcome obstacles, and has since been thriving. In the last few months, news arrived that doctors have found a second tumor growing in his brain, and deemed it too dangerous to conduct a second surgery. Alvaro does not let his medical situation hinder him on a daily basis. During therapy he demonstrates great progress and now has the utmost confidence and straightforward attitude that allows him to engage and participate in the workshops. He takes advantage of every moment by engaging with his peers and playing soccer every chance he gets. Alvar has achieved his therapy goal of increased self-awareness and self-confidence since beginning therapy three months ago. Now, Alvaro is the first person to start any task and does not allow mistakes hinder him, but uses those experiences to grow from them. Alvaro is a strong emotional child that is going to blossom into a smart young man, who will be able to tackle any challenge.
Please consider sponsoring continued therapy services for children like sweet Alvaro, so we can continue to give him hope and teach job skills that supports independence and future success. Click below to sponsor therapy for a child.
Santiago is a gentle and handsome 5 year old boy with cerebral palsy who has received 6 months of therapy along with his older sister Rosario. His major challenges have been controlling his head when sitting, engaging with toys, bearing weight in his legs, and connecting with his mother. He is a strong little boy, and has been making such progress with his positioning, has been engaging with musical toys while standing with support, holds his head up well, and has been searching for his mom when she talks to him. Santiago has the best giggle when Admeth played the drums for him, and he loves looking around when his mama carries him through the market. We are thankful for the privilege to work with Santiago and his mother to give hope, encourage the mom to complete therapy in home, and to share with his family how amazing he is, because the Lord loves him.
To sponsor therapy services for children like Santiago, to make progress possible for him and his family, please click the button below.