November 2011 – Old friend, Development solutions, Nick is 30

This month we visited Juan, a long time friend of Nick.  Juan is ~21 years old, and has severe physical disabilities.  We know Juan from visits to an orphanage for children with disabilities here in Santiago, where no regular rehabilitation services are provided for residents.  Although Juan produces only a few words at a time, he is quick-witted and always remembers and greets us with hugs from his spot on the floor.

Last year, Juan was transferred away from his friends to an adult facility 3 hours away.  On our first visit, we found his building hidden down a long, trash-strewn drive behind the state psychiatric facilities.  He sat in a colorless room with 14 other adults. His companions had severe mental and physical disabilities, and were huddled together on the floor, most in only diapers.  It broke our spirits to see him isolated there.  We found a wheelchair and took Juan outdoors to be together for awhile and pray before we journeyed home.  We are glad that this is the worst situation we have encountered, not the norm.

Please pray for Juan, and the others who live with him!  Pray for us as we work on physical therapy growth and advocacy, that our collaborative efforts will slowly build better opportunities for people with disabilities.  We are glad to partner with a Lutheran organization, which has opened a home for 6 of these children at Casa Hogar.  We are so happy to visit and work with this new family of kids, and meet regularly with these Lutherans friends.

Playing with a friend's wheelchair at Casa Hogar

Note: Please excuse the inclusion of altered patient pictures. We want to uphold privacy laws from our country, even though we’d love to show you their faces!

Nick’s Notes on International Development

With humility and awareness we are learning to interact in this new culture.   We find this requires constant reflection and intentional decision-making, otherwise we find ourselves responding to problems instead of preventing them.  A few concepts we are working towards:

Development demands a thorough understanding of context (cultural, socioeconomic, religious, political, etc.). We are building relationships and partnerships with individuals and organizations to gain understanding of these contexts.

Development is dependent on long-term, sustainable vision in projects and interventions. We are performing an assessment of physical therapy in the DR, in order to guide our actions.

Development happens only when people in the community (however you define it) are empowered to create change in their own lives. THIS IS OUR GOAL. Ideally, we want to be without work, as Dominican physical therapists are empowered to take on the challenges in this context.

We recognize that the work is not just up to us.  That through the love of God we are here, and that God may change the focus of the work.  Pray for wisdom as we use these guidelines in our church and health care relationships, so that through love we can participate in the slow fruits that last beyond our time here.

Tidbits

Nick & Laurie with our pastor Julio

● Above: At the national Nazarene church conference for leaders, we purchased some hard-to-find discipleship literature in Spanish for our church!
● Laurie is editing the curriculum for a tech-level physical therapy program that an Episcopal missionary from another part of the country is writing. Health, Faith and Community partnerships are essential! Pray for wisdom!
● At the end of the month, our church’s child sponsorship ministry will implement Compassion International curriculum.  Pray for wisdom while we receive training this month, and for smooth implementation and blessing for the kids!

A Personal Note

Nick celebrated his 30th birthday on October 20th! Laurie is (slowly) sewing curtains for our front room. We feel much more settled in our own skins since we last wrote. For Thanksgiving, we hope to fit a 15lb turkey in our tiny oven for all the neighbors we want over.

We are looking at our year end budget, and will make Nov/Dec our annual season for fund-raising. Please pray for us as we determine what we need and don’t for the next year, and enter into a time of gratitude for the many ways each of you partner and support this work. Thank you so very much! Happy early Thanksgiving!


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