Before I left, I had the opportunity to go on several home visits with the Pina Palmera team. As usual I am impressed by the persistence of the staff: searching diligently for homes hidden in remote areas with poor access and few landmarks for guidance. There is no actual address; usually one asks around for: ”would you know where Maria’s mother’s house is?” and hopes for accurate information.
The reason for visiting today is to see why the children and parents have not participated in the regular therapy sessions at Pina. It is difficult for most people to reach the therapy center: distance and money are usually the biggest impediment to access and regular participation. However, the parents may have to work, the mothers become pregnant again, the grandparents are sick or die, but worst of all the family decides that therapy is not necessary. The Pina team continually educates families about the need to continue with regular sessions, whether it is about teaching the deaf children sign language or therapy for the toddlers with developmental delays.
These discussions also enable the team to find out if the families need different kinds of help such as paperwork for school registration of the youngest child or medical assistance for a family member; many times there are issues that the Pina staff can help with.
The families of disabled children are dealing with significant stress and this leads to frequent conflicts between family members.Today, a long talk with the father and grandparents of a young boy with developmental issues helped plan a strategy for hyperactivity and frustration outbursts.
Luckily Sofia’s youngest daughter steals the show and helps break the ice – everyone wants to play with the chubby, smiling baby and soon the discussion flows smoothly into child care issues and parents share their concerns wit more ease.
After a long and very hot day on the road, our small group returns home tired but happy with its accomplishments – all 4 families targeted today have been found, visited and encouraged to take another step in the long, difficult journey towards health and better quality of life.
Perhaps the team will have to return one more time, perhaps the parents will resume their trips to Pina – who knows? One thing is certain though: the team is not ready to give up and every child’s health and education is worth fighting for.As usual, I am impressed and humbled by their efforts and have a deeper understanding about the effort required to provide support and access to health care when environment and infrastructure are so unfriendly.