Project Play begins in Cali, Colombia!

ProjectPlay begins

24 02 2011 (check out Keely's blog and read about all her adventures in Colombia! Pretty soon, she will be on her way to Costa Rica

I think that I wrote a quick blurb about an idea that I had for Oscar Scarpetta: provide job/money management training to the adolescents at the same time we provide love/stimulation/play opportunities to enhance development for the little ones. How? you ask… well, this is the birth of ProjectPlay. The adolescents receive hourly payment into a group fund for providing the one-on-one play. The adolescents then get to spend this money on group outings, buying whatever they want for the group.

Thanks to the AMAZING support of donors for this program, we have been working really hard to get it underway the last few days.

I bought tons of toys, mats, climbing equipment for the kids to provide them a safe area to get to play. Play time/floor time in an orphanage is really like a war zone. It is a battle for survival– you either are the aggressor (the victor who keeps the toy and or gets the attention) or you are the weakling who sits in the corner and never makes a peep so no-one ever messes with you. We transformed this area into an AWESOME play space for kids from babies up to 8 or 9 years old.

The room before:

Pre- ProjectPlay

Bringin in the supplies:

Adolescents helping carry all the supplies to the room

The room after:

ProjectPlay playroom

The adolescents were informed of this opportunity a week and a half ago. They are learning the steps of employment: everyone had to fill out an application and undergo training before they are selected as a “leader of ProjectPlay”. They are learning ALL the ins-and-outs of the employee manual and the expectations of them as an employee. They spent almost 3 hours in a “class” about child development in which we talked about all the aspect of development and how they could enhance each (gross/fine motor, speech, cognition, behavior/social, creative etc) through play. We talked about using creativity and the millions of different ways you can use the same toys. Mostly I helped them understand how important the role of the the Leaders of ProjectPlay is to the success of the program.

ProjectPlay Leaders... so much learning, so little time

I asked them what the difference was between a street dog and a house dog. Their answers were right on– the street dog is wild, he could bite you, etc. The house dog listens to his master, he knows how to behave. I asked them what would be the difference if the “house dog” lived in the nicest house in the world but without an owner. And the “street dog” lived on the street with an owner who cared for him, fed him, talked to him and pet him etc. This stumped them for a minute. But after they all started discussing it, they realized that this “house dog” would be totally wild and the “street dog” would probably by clam and tamed. Then I talked about the new room– with all its toys, mats, bells and whistles. This is the beautiful house without an ownder– the big thing that will make a difference in the lives of these babies/young children is the people: the leaders of ProjectPlay. As Americans, we often hear the word play and automatically think of toys. But the truth is, a child with a rock and stick and a caring, engaging adult will learn WAY more than a child in FAO Schwartz with no interactions with other people. It was such a cool moment. All of them were smiling and nodding… like they even understood for themselves how important this connection would be. And they have been keeping up this awesome energy since.

Training day 2 consisted of reading the employee manual and discussing its content entirely and then making sure everyone knew how to fill out all the forms. One of the older girls commented about her shock in the amount of signatures that a job like this requires “I have to sign this paper too? can’t you guys just remember who I am?” The rest of the week will be observing play sessions. And then next week we start with the real deal.

ProjectPlay leaders (there are boys too.. they just were not here today)

I started introducing the play area to the little-ones today also. Talk about stimulation… this was totally overstimulation! All the newness. All the colors. All the toys that make noise and light up (because they actually have batteries) All the different feelings– of the squishy foam cushions. We spent the majority of the thirty minutes in a state of shock… them clutching onto me… me slowly working them into playing with a toy or two. One little boy however loved it. He was talking and making more noise than I have ever heard as he played with this light-up bus toy.

Lots of the kiddos looked like this the first 10 minutes:


Followed by a little more confidence and a brief moment of play:

Boom Boom Boom... nothing like banging some rings together to really make a one year old happy

Holy cow… you mean I get to play with this thing for 20 minutes and no one is going to bother me:

He really liked this bus

Lots of the older girls (5-9 year olds) came in the room in the afternoon as we were cleaning up. They almost died. I think in a ten minute period they played with every single toy in the place.

The band

The ProjectPlay updates will definitely continue. We are starting this project as a 6 month trial and hopefully all will go well and we will see improvement on both fronts: development and job training/money management. But I think there is even more potential than that. I think great relationships will be formed between leaders and babies, leaders and supervisors, leaders and leaders. I hope that the leaders will have a sense of pride from participating. I hope that they will be role models for younger kids who want to participate in the program some day. I hope that they will be better more loving parents (eventually… please let this not happen for quite a while!). I hope this thing works!!

more soon


Pat and Kathy leave for China this Friday!

Hi everyone,

Let me introduce ourselves. My name is Pat, I am a pediatric physical therapist who has praticed for over 25 years. Kathy is a speech therapist who has praticed for about 40 years. We are part of superkids which is the humanitarian aide arm of Gladney adoption agency.

Pat, physical therapist

Kathy, speech therapist

Kathy and I are preparing to leave for Shanghai this Friday and we are so excited. We will spend the week at the Shanghai Children's Home. Our mission is to meet children in the Waiting Children Program and to train orphanage staff, local volunteers, and caregivers who care for disabled orphans. We have been preparing for this trip since last fall. All our preparation is about to come to fruition. We are fluttering around trying to pull our lives together and take care of a multitude of last minute details. My suitcase is almost as tall as I am. This is my fourth trip and Kathy's second trip.We are excited and nervous at the same time. Did we forget anything? Most of all we can't wait to get back to see the Children in the orphanage. We know we will see familiar staff and care givers. Several expatriate volunteers, who we have worked with during previous missions, will interpret for us again. We met them on one of our first trips to China and we can't wait to see them! Their ability to translate is great and their command of not only proper language but also common language is exceptional. They seem to actually think in two languages.
Kathy and I are meeting for breakfast tomorrow to go over last minute details. We will keep you all in the loop as to whats going on.

Even the longest Journey begins with one small step.

Kelly is back in Ethiopia....She has hit the ground running

Words from Kelly:

Things have been both good and a bit disappointing. Some things that we're implemented in Kebebtsehay
seem to have been pushed to the wayside with the move into the new building and hiring a lot of new caregivers. I'm meeting with the director and then with Alex tomorrow so I'm hoping to have some more information as far as what is manageable, what's working, what's not working, etc. I will keep you updated.

There have been SO many changes at Kebebtsehay. There is a HUGE new amazing two story building on the campus that most of the kids have moved into. The babies and toddlers are on the second floor with some
of the older ones on the first floor. The two old buildings are currently being remodeled to house the oldest kids at Kebebtsehay. It was almost eerie going into the old baby house. It was still painted blue with the old dresser missing a couple of drawers but had dust and debris everywhere. It was silent. I explained the old set up to Nick;
what everything looked like, where it all was. This new building feels like a fresh start, in a good way and in a not
my favorite way. All the toys we brought before are somewhere unknown, the dry erase board with the schedule for the babies and toddler is also gone. I haven’t given up hope yet; since it was the weekend, the director wasn’t there and neither was Alex, so tomorrow I should have
some more information.

Home again...with a LOT of work to do!

It feels SO good to be back here in Ethiopia. It really feels like home and although some things look so completely different, the people are just as amazing.

There are a lot of new kiddos with special needs at Kebebtsehay; seven, actually. I haven’t had a chance to spend much time in their room yet except to know that a few of them are very sick. Tomorrow I’ll meet with Alex and the director to see what our objectives are for the next two weeks. I have some high hopes of getting all the kiddos who need physical therapy on a set program with Alex with the ones who are appropriate set up with the stander, donated from the AMAZING company Kaye Products. Seriously, check them out. What great people. Because the building is so new, there is some great space in the first floor and an outdoor patio on the second floor that the caregivers are open to having us create into a playroom to encourage some developmental stimulation. Ideally, we’d love to set up the first floor because it’s really an amazing space, it’s not realistic for the caregivers to carry all the babies and toddlers down there every day, so we can pretty much comfortably say that isn’t going to happen. We’re brainstorming the patio and will keep you updated, of course!

I also have been asked to present our caregiver education program again because so many new caregivers have been hired. We’re looking at doing some re-working of the information and trying to condense a little because I just don’t think we have the time to pull it all off to the same extent this time around. My mind is swirling with some
ideas of creating it as some sort of training program that all new employees of the orphanage must complete. Perhaps making it into a manual with great pictures and resources. Of course this also needs to then be translated into Amharic. Ekk. The babies and toddlers would really benefit from being back on a schedule again, so we’ll be
revisiting that part of what we had done last time, too.

We’re hoping to get a Kechene project going in a few days, so stay tuned! We have some good ideas to be working on once we’re back in the States.

Can’t believe I forgot to give you all the best news….ELSHADAY WAS ADOPTED! If any of you remember the kiddos we worked with last time we were here, Elshaday was one of the sicker kiddos. He had some serious
nutrition issues and impairments that we’re causing him to aspirate and Keely and I tried to get some things going for him, but you just never know once you leave. It is amazing news that he is somewhere getting the love and attention he needs and deserves. This really feels like one of the missions of Superkids coming full circle for me; working with a child, focusing on their physical impairments in an attempt to make them more functional and improve their quality of life and then knowing they have a forever family that will continue striving towards those goals every day. These are the things that keep me going.

I had some really amazing high hopes to blog every day….SO not happening. Not because I don’t have access to internet this time (theoretically, we have internet in our guest house), but because there is so much to do and so little time! Hope to be updating you all
soon! :)


An excerpt from Keely's blog

(Keely is field director of Latin America)

30 01 2011

Keely has visitors!!! - Cali, Colombia...Orphanage:

So who were these visitors you ask? They were Janet Fink, the director of Super Kids, and two of her good friends- Lisa and Sabrina. Experiences like this are so cool– because you are so in the moment, you have to be very present. This is because so much happens in every second. You quickly find out who people really are. For this reason, you develop a unique bond with people who undergo it with you. You talk about things, things that really matter. And you really get to know them. I have known Janet for about a year and a half– but mostly as a voice on the phone or a talking face on skype. I had never met Sabrina or Lisa. But by the time they left, they really felt like old friends (yes, corny… but also very true). They just had this calm confidence and were so inquisitive and intelligent. I don’t even really know what to say– they were just so cool!
The basics of their time here looked like this: a day filled with sunshine and children. Evenings filled with conversation and lots of food (gourmet according to my current standards). I think the pictures will tell the story better than I can:

Keely, Lisa, Janet and Claudio the chicken... being tourists
The ladies bought the kids at Oscar Scarpetta some MUCH needed books. The kids loved them so much: turning the pages, looking at pictures, sitting on laps and reading the words. They played with the books ALL day!

Sabrina and friends in the toddler room

Reading 'til the cows come homeWe like our new books!

Spanish reading lessons
One of the older girls came and Spanish reading lessons as the ladies attempted to read to the babies in Spanish. She was VERY impressed at their reading abilities!!!
The books for the older kids were presented to the “library committee.” And the ladies were given a few small Colombian souveniers as a thank you. And then we all chowed-down some delicious Colombian food and drink.

Library Committee
And they were especially THRILLED about the twilight books!

Teenage girls will be teenage girls
They left with so many ideas. So many plans. I can’t wait to see what they can help us accomplish here in Colombia.

Packin up and movin out!
Janet, Lisa and Sabrina. Thank you so much for coming. You will definitely be missed.
The night they left, one of my best friends got here. I am so excited to have a buddy to explore with. And she is a PT too so I am really pumped to have someone to bounce some ideas off of. Next update will be the adventures of Keely and Kristi– I have no doubts it will be quite riveting! Until then…