About Special Needs

As a follow up to our webinair featuring the JiangXi children here is some of the information plus a few more details in a quick reference guide

Cerebral Palsy
A non progressive disorder caused by an injury to the neurological system, immediately before,  during or right after birth.  Can cause difficulty with motor movements such as weakness, stiff muscles or abnormal movements, and can have symptoms affecting other areas of development.

Limb differences
can be anything, everything from missing fingers and toes, webbing between the digits or missing most of a limb.

Abnormal electrical activity in the nerve cells in the brain causing loss of consciousness, unusual sensations or behavior.

In these children, the body unable to produce or distribute melanin, a natural substance that gives color to your hair, skin, and iris of the eye.  These children may have vision issues or difficulty with perception.  Sometimes they also have developmental delay because vision plays a huge part in development.

Spina Bifida
there are several different types of Spina Bifida.  It is caused by incomplete formation of the spinal bones, covering of the spinal nerves or spinal nerves being unprotected by the spinal bones.  This conditions can result in difficulty with walking or moving.

Congenital heart defects
May be anything from minor or major in nature.

Cleft lip/ palette

A cleft palate is an opening or split in the roof of the mouth that occurs when the tissue doesn't fuse together during development in the womb. Cleft palate often includes a split or cleft in the upper lip (cleft lip) but can occur without affecting the lip.  A cleft can also extend into the gum area causing a split in ridge above the teeth.

Join us for part two of our webinair featuring the children from JiangXi.  Follow the link below to register.   www.asiawaitingchild.wordpress.com. And click on the register for webinair link



Trains, Planes and Brujitas


As I spent Sunday on a day trip partaking in the strangest form of transportation I have ever experienced, I thought I would take the time to describe that event and the other forms of transportation native to Colombia. From most frequented to least (least being Sunday’s wild ride), here we go:


I travel to and from Chiquitines and most other places I need to go here using public transportation. The main city system of public transportation is called the Mio and for the most part, it’s very reliable and sophisticated. In fact, Cali’s public transit system was implemented a few years ago following the pioneering design of Bogota’s rapid transit system .According to this model, the four center lanes of main thoroughfares are dedicated to bus traffic only, and you enter the bus system through your station’s turnstile, then ride where you need to on the same fare until you exit a different turnstile at your destination. Fares are inexpensive at 1600 pesos (less than a dollar) per trip and the buses are modern and in good condition. Despite the seeming order of the system though, there are several factors that make the Mio an adventure in itself some days.

For starters, it is usually packed. And when I say packed I mean smashed up against the glass door, stranger’s bossom in your face kind of packed. In fact, every time I think it can’t be more full, Mio defies all odds to prove me wrong. Add to that how it is customary to push and shove your way onto the bus filled way beyond capacity and it is that much more unbearable. Luckily I have grown more or less accustomed to this routine though. I can now stand my ground with the best of them. I have not yet gotten used to how the bus is designed to accommodate tiny little Colombians and not giant Americans like myself, however. I hit my head on the overhead grab bars as I exit on a daily basis and have to jam my knees toward my chest in certain seats.

To get a better picture of what it’s like to be a foreign giant on the Mio, check out Keely’s description. That particular experience was the most entertaining commute I’ve had to date and it happened on a day full of chaos and congestion as the drivers of the smaller buses in Cali were striking because of the Mio’s plans to take over their routes and replace their buses. The drivers’ fears of job loss were mostly founded. However, there is good cause, at least in my opinion, to clear out the smaller bus system.
Based on my one experience with the smaller bus system, I’m ready for them to go. While they will stop wherever you would like them to on the route, they are tiny, old, falling apart, polluting and quite frankly a little terrifying.  They zoom in between lanes pulling over whenever they feel like it while you hang on for dear life and hope you’re going in the right direction. There’s typically a passenger (who knows how he is selected to his position) who plays the part of blinker as well by hanging out the door to wave traffic off. As Magnolia stated, this guy is not asking you to let him pass, he’s telling you that he’s going to take three lanes at a time to make his exit whether you like it or not. Watch out world.

A twenty minute ride in a taxi here costs a whopping six dollars. Six dollars. While hesitant to use taxis in the U.S. (when in cities big enough to have them – Iowa girl here… ), I am all for calling a taxi here when in need. They are tiny and also tend to swerve through traffic but in a way much less distressing than the small buses. I’ve been warned to call a taxi service when needed and not to catch a random cab from the street because of safety issues, but overall, they are the ideal way to get from point A to point B here.

My host family doesn’t own a car but Angelica’s parents do and I frequently hitch a ride with the Chiquitines doctor to the bus stop after work. Like most other places outside of the SUV-loving U.S., cars here are small. They are mostly compact little things like the Ford Fiesta, Chevy Aveo or any number of Renault vehicles. Don’t let their size fool you though – like the buses, Colombians sure know how to fill them up. On one otherwise non-eventful Sunday here a few weeks back, we fit nine people and a dog in Angelica’s mother’s car. Nine. Granted, two of them were children but still. Nine. Don’t for a second think that we drove more cautiously because of the cargo either. We proceeded to zoom through traffic, occupying two lanes at a time, honking at every intersection, tapping the brakes at stop signs and never ever ever using a blinker as we traveled to our destination. Pretend you never read this, Mom.

By far the most interested form of travel I have encountered here, the brujitas of San Cipriano are a class of transportation in and of themselves. Imagine that on a day trip to the river after spending two hours traversing windy mountain roads, you arrive in a tiny little town. The tour guide leads you toward a set of railroad tracks a few blocks from where the bus leaves you and you find yourself looking around in puzzlement, as there is no train in sight. All you can spot are these tiny little platforms resembling a couple of wooden pallets nailed together, with wheels on the bottom, a crude wooden bench on top, and a motorbike equipped with only one tire attached. There’s no way that’s how we’re getting to the nature reserve, right?


At this point one of the most terrifying/entertaining rides of my life began. These wooden platforms were indeed how we were to arrive at our destination. On our tour guide’s command, we squished a minimum of twelve people on one of these things and hung on for dear life as the driver, AKA the guy revving the motorbike as the back wheel turned over the rail, started us off. As there wasn’t any place to hang onto though, we really just tried to think skinny and low to the ground as we started picking up speed. Despite the fact that we were going thirty miles per hour without any kind of safety anything, the ride was actually pretty comical. The group in front of ours had to get off and push their platform when it couldn’t make it up a tiny incline and five minutes after we had a laugh at them, our motorbike ran out of gas. Our driver was kind enough to push our platform the fifty yards or so to the next place he could fill up, however (with a jug of gas brought out by a guy sitting on his patio next to the tracks), so we didn’t have to break a sweat.

The brujitas are actually the only way to travel between towns in the area we were visiting, as there are no roads to connect them and the area suffers from extreme poverty. Did I also mention that it’s an active rail line? The whole time this was going down, I was praying that a train wouldn’t come barreling around the next curve. Or if it did, that at least it would sound it’s horn long before then. As we crossed a handful of bridges over small to moderate-sized rivers with the trestles no more than six inches from our toes and the drop off to the water just beyond those, the praying intensified. God save the brujitas.

 Again, pretend you never read this, Mom.


Change Part 3

For instance, my most recent project has been developing a care plan for a two-year-old little girl who has severe brain damage from meningitis. After talking to the auxiliaries about her daily cares and their time commitments, I learned that they realize she spends too much time on her back, but they don’t know how to position her differently. I also learned that my best shot at increasing this little one’s quality of life is in finding a volunteer to dedicate herself to her therapy and bring others on board as well. Since then, I have been overwhelmed with the support and interest of staff in the well-being of this little girl. Last week at their request, I sat down with the doctor and head nurse to discuss my thoughts on her functioning and what could be done to give her the opportunity to progress. I was also able to spend a morning working with Libia, resident super volunteer, taking pictures for positioning and stretching programs she and the auxiliaries will implement. It has truly been wonderful to see everyone come together to make this little girl’s life better, and I think it is a very concrete example of what can happen when everyone is on the same page working together for a shared purpose.

Libia trying her hand at some of the new stretches
High tech positioners (burp rag, anyone?) to keep her thumb in a better position and prevent contractures
If this much good can transpire in one week, I can’t wait to see what happens in the next.

To top it all off, this little guy, who received new braces from Keely and turned two last week, walked solo for the first time today! Life is good.


Change Part Two

 As the volunteers showed that they were in it for the long haul, I found that the auxiliaries, who are responsible for all of the babies’ medication, feeding and hygiene, also started to tiptoe into the therapy scene. I am very proud to say that the tummy time phenomena has now extended past the volunteers to nearly all those involved in the development of the younger kids. For the last week, the mats have been out and heaping with little ones, toys and adults from breakfast until dinner. It’s not only volunteers doing the work either. Today I found an auxiliary putting out the mats before a volunteer could get to it, and it seems like each day more and more professional staff (psychologist, doctor, head nurse, social worker, etc.) leave their offices to at the very least stroll by the play area and coo at a few children. The auxiliaries have also started lingering around the edges of teaching moments between myself and volunteers and posing hesitant questions about the children’s care. In the last week, I have found these questions to be great starting points for further conversation. While talking about the pandiolas, the discussion moves to reflux. “Hey I’ve actually been working on some positioning devices to help with that. What do you think about this?” Or when an auxiliary asks why the one year old spits out all of the solid pieces of his food, I’m able to explain his oral motor delays, validate that it is understandably difficult for her to give that child the time he needs to learn to tolerate new textures and let her know that the other volunteers and myself are able and more than willing to lend a helping hand. As I look for feedback on the new supplies that have arrived at Chiquitines recently (see pictures below), I’m able to get a better picture of what will actually be used and how I can change things to make it easier for everyone involved. Once the auxiliaries see that I’m on their side, I’ve found them more open to suggestions and willing to give input into my projects.

Thanks to the generous donations of friends and family, this tiny table arrived at Chiquitines last week. The perfect size for working on feeding, fine motor activities and cruising with the toddler group, it is a great addition to the stimulation room.

Gabriel, my host brother, was kind enough to accompany me to the city center last week to buy foam for some reflux positioners I wanted to make. Getting the foam back to the apartment was quite the adventure.

This itty bitty baby, who is only a week old, arrived at Chiquitines last week to a crib newly fitted with an inclined wedge to assist with reflux. Compared to the old method of using rolled up towels beneath the mattress, which caused the babies to frequently slip to one side against the walls, the new foam is a big improvement.

 Getting the completed wedges (which I promised I used for my personal enjoyment just once) to Chiquitines on the bus was another adventure. As if I didn’t stand out enough as a giant foreigner, let’s add a massive unidentifiable homemade contraption…


Change Part One

Only a week has passed since I last wrote about Chiquitines but it seems like far more, as so much has changed – in ways that are readily seen and not so tangible.

For the first month of my time here, I found myself very preoccupied with the seemingly unbreakable cycle of care the little ones here receive.  The caregivers at Chiquitines love the kids and would do anything for them. However, there exist some critical habits that put the kids at a disadvantage from developing in the same way a child raised in a traditional home does. For the better part of the time I have spent here, I felt like breaking that cycle was impossible. “How does one young, recently graduated therapist without the natural rapport that comes from being a native speaker and resident, convince a well-oiled machine to change some of their habits?” I would ask myself.

Ever so slowly, mostly in the last week, I realized I was asking the wrong questions. I don’t need to show the people that care for the kids day in and day out that they are doing things wrong. I don’t need to look for a way to implement system-wide changes that I think will help the kids but that will most likely lead to conflicts of opinion and ultimately lack of compliance as soon as I board my plane back to the U.S. What I need to do is join their side.  What I need to do is praise the good things that are happening and meet the caregivers where they are - give them practical, easy-to-implement ways to meet both their needs and those of the little ones.  Last week brought a whirlwind of small changes that I hope and pray will endure long after I’m gone.

After meeting with the volunteers the previous week, I was bombarded with therapy questions last week. And it felt fantastic! Nearly every day, several volunteers would ask me, “Did you see so and so crawling? Isn’t that great? Now what’s next?” Or “Abby, can you show me what you’re doing with this little guy I work with?” Many more asked about feeding too, as that was a much-discussed topic in our little get-together, and stuck around the lunch hour to learn and to help.

Volunteer education on advancing the goals of this little guy after achieving propped sitting balance

Demonstrating feeding techniques with an eight month old with food aversion and tongue thrusting (not included: the dozen or so pictures of said eight month old in tears battling said feeding techniques as she struggles to tolerate even two ounces of pureed passion fruit…)

And so ends another feeding session


Lessons Learned

Remember lesson number one from my last post? It must have rang home loud and clear because when I arrived at Chiquitines on Friday morning, this is what I found:

Talk about tummy time! It is so good for these little ones to be on a flat surface with toys to explore and learn from. In contrast to the baby slings that provide absolutely no opportunity for exploration aside from self-rocking (which is not conducive to learning how to sit independently) and which often leave the babies slouched at all sorts of horrible angles, tummy time promotes purposeful movement and interaction with the environment that these little ones so desperately need. Forget having to gently place them back on the mat every two minutes as they wander off into new territory – it is totally worth it to see them playing and exploring and learning!

On Thursday, I overheard a volunteer telling one of the caregivers why playing on a mat was better than spending time in the rocker chairs. The way she presented this newly acquired information so matter of fact made me grin to myself but I was one proud OT! I can’t say enough good things about the volunteers at Chiquitines. They are such a blessing!



It wasn’t all babies and gait trainers and hospitals and orphanages… there was a little tourist time too.  On Friday night we went to a show that is best described as salsa meets the circus called Delirio. It is quite an espectaculo! And Abby and I were quite the spectacle. As you enter the show you go this kind of ”red carpet” experience and are handed drinks (chivas and aguardientes… not for the faint of heart) and have several photo ops.  And if you are two gigantic curly-headed girls, the photo ops are aplenty!

Saturday was filled with shopping and driving tour of Cali.  Mercedes, who you all might remember as Negra, Magnolia’s good friend that I lived with last year, has moved to a super fancy high-rise on the hill overlooking all of Cali. We made sure to stop there! Here is a picture of the view from her balcony.

It was amazing to be in that setting, but it was also an amazing representation of the disparity of wealth in Colombia.  There we were in this fancy pants apartment (much nicer than anything I have ever lived in… not sure that is saying much though:) ) But immediately surrounding this huge new building were old dilapidated buildings like these:

The day was capped of with something long overdue: the mango taste test.  I am, well a mango aficionado of sorts… or better put I want to be one.  I love mangos.  And have obsessed over them several times in previous posts.  What amazed me when I got here last year was to learn that there are so many different types.  Its like apples back home.  Any typical grocery store or market is sure to have at lest 3-4 different kinds of mangos.  I was really not even sure which ones are the type we usually eat at home. So last night Magnolia and one of her friends helped me put it to the test.

 And the winner is: Tomy- very sweet, not as many of those little stringy bits that get stuck in your teeth… and it was huge.
I had such a great time with my all my friends here in Colombia.  Here is a picture of my most loved Colombia Mother, Magnolia (as requested by my friends at CMC) who helped make this short trip so productive!! Mil gracias, te quiero y nos vemos muy pronto.



Toddlers Toddlers Everywhere

There is a place on Earth where you can’t help but feel loved.  I am not going to say it is necessarily a happy place… but it is a pure place, a raw and very real place.  It is full of mischief and wonder. It is the playroom/playground for the toddlers at Chiquetines.  It is a complete and total madhouse! It is 10-12 toddlers left alone to their own devices.  Well I should not say that exactly. They are casually supervised, that would be my best description.  But seriously, it is like the lion’s den… but they are some darn cute lions.  Watching from afar you are sure to witness everything from group wresting matches to sing-alongs.  They will have made sticks, plastic bottles, baby doll heads and anything else they can get their hands on into toys… and they will eat the rest.  At any one moment you will find one crying.  But with all this chaos,  the more amazing thing is that there is only one crying.  This something that is immediately notable in orphanages… its takes a lot to make these kiddos cry.  Bumps on the head, falling face first, getting bit, scratched and hit… these little dudes don’t even bat an eye.  It’s really sad actually, sort of a learned helplessness. Crying never really got them anywhere or any attention… so they just seem to stop doing it one day.

But when you enter, when you join them… everything changes.  You become a human jungle gym.  You get kissed, slobbered on, dove over. And when you take out the camera… get ready to experience even more joy.  Nothing pleases these kiddos more than seeing a picture of themselves, even at this age. There is so much personality, so much curiosity, so much love in these babies.  You immediately pick out the brave ones, the shy ones, the jokesters. You see little tiny people forming with each moment.  And in this moment, they want nothing more than to just be with you.  Its pretty much the most amazing feeling ever.

Human Jungle Gym

Just too darn sweet.

Look what we found!


Toys are fun.

I sort of fell in love with this precious little guy. And he loved helping me take lots of pictures!!

Baby D playing outside with his new shoes and braces. They really help him stand and walk.

I like them a lot.

Phase Two

Yesterday I survived an experience that can only be described as Colombian. A training session with the Chiquitines volunteers – ten incredibly loving,very talkative, persuasive women who I am sure I will never cease to be entertained by.

As part of Phase Two, I spent a couple of hours explaining to the volunteers what I have been working on with my kiddos for the last month and teaching them simple strategies to continue assisting their development after I leave. They were incredibly receptive to the information I gave them and had tons of questions about how to best help the kids they work with.  Questions were hurled at me from three separate women simultaneously while two more shouted out a conversation about their friend’s nephew’s love life over the top of it all - with hands gesturing in all directions and mouths moving a mile a minute each. Throw a handful of babies and a couple of mats into the mix and you have yourself a very lively meeting.

Crazy antics more or less aside though, the following were the take home points of the get-together:

1.Rocker chairs = bad. Tummy time = good.

2. Speed feeding pureed = bad. Taking the time to work on feeding with one little one once a week = better.

3.Exercise ball = GREAT for the core strengthening so many of the kids need to be able to sit solo.

4.Better organized and more easily-accessed toys = more frequently used toys.

5.The ultimate solution to continuing therapy with these little guys = me staying in Cali! At least so goes the logic of this specific group of women. One of them even offered to find me a Colombian boyfriend to help seal the deal…

Ahh, las voluntarias. Never a dull moment.


Phase Two

Keely left Cali yesterday after a week of teaching, loving and exploring.  In her absence, I feel like a different phase of work has begun here in Colombia.

One of things that Keely is really good at (there are umpteen million more) is seeing the big picture of things and focusing on sustainable change. While she was here, she really opened my eyes to the kind of change I want to make. For the past month, I have been working one-on-one with a dozen or so little ones at Chiquitines. While I have seen improvements, both big and small, in their motor skills, social interaction and independence, I know that rate of change will most likely come to a startling halt when I leave. Unless I do something about it…

Yes, it is great to work with the kids and see their development kick start with lots of love and hands-on therapy. Yes, I think they need all the attention they can get because I’m only here for two months. But…

I’m only here for two months.

I’m only here for three more weeks.

What happens when I leave?

How can I make Chiquitines a better place to nurture love and growth not only now but AFTER I’m gone?

Answer: I spend as much time doing caregiver training and education as possible, try to make small, feasible structural changes and hope/pray like crazy that as a result, I leave this place at least a smidgeon better than I found it.

So… here is to Phase Two. To making the change last.


Asia Waiting Child Webinar

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.  I have heard this saying for years.  I wake up every morning and try to remember this.  No matter what has come before, what will come ahead we have today.  To act for positive change, to be a force in the universe.  Jane Goodall said ". Every individual matters.  Every individual has a role to play.  Every individual makes a difference."

I find this true in every aspect of life.  I have to say in advocating for waiting children I am so in awe of how many adoptive families make such a great difference in our world.   They change the life of a child. There is nothing larger than this.  They are changing the future of the world by providing a brighter future for this child.  I am truly privileged to be some small part of this process.  To help them get started, to check on their child while they wait.  To help with physical concerns when I am at the orphanage.  Lastly and most importantly to advocate for these children.

I would like to ask all adoptive parents to step out of their comfort zone, go above and beyond again and help me advocate for the next group of waiting children.  When Gongzhan and I were in China in June, we visited three orphanages in the JiangXi province. We saw almost 30 children in these orphanages.  We have just started to receive profiles and translations for these children.  April Udihuri and I will be conducting a special webinair for these children to help find forever families so they too can have a bright future.   The webinair will be on September 20 at 7 pm east coast time. Read more about the webinair and other upcoming events on Gladney's Asia waiting child blog.   If you are considering adoption or know someone who is, please forward the link to your friends as well.  Let's all commit to making positive change in the world beginning with these children.



A Picture is Worth an Hour of my Time

Hello again! Two posts in two days – look at me!

Actually, I’m taking the easy way out of this one and letting photos take the place of a narrative. After a long day of work and messy transportation (a bus personnel strike compounded by new road closures – yuck!), I’m feeling too lazy to write even a bit creatively. I will caption instead.

 Post horrendous commute, the day started off with a bang as the Chiquitines volunteers hosted a fiesta in honor of the kids with August birthdays.

 What’s a party without a little ice cream??

 And balloons!

 More balloon fun.
 A glimpse into the mini photo shoot that followed the fiesta. What a novelty a camera is in a swarming group of sugar-crazed children!

 Block towers start off another Fine Motor Wednesday!

 As promised, this Fine Motor Wednesday also brought a some special sensory activities for a couple of little ones with aversions to certain textures and types of play.

  I’m not sure that this kid knew exactly what to think about the shaving cream

 Two little bitty babies came back from hospital stays yesterday, so I spent some of my afternoon working on positioning. They’re all over the place in their cribs (and this guy almost always has his head turned to the right), so I’ll provide pictures of proper positioning over their cribs for their caregivers to follow
 Much better! Hands midline, head neutral and boundaries all around so he knows where his body ends and where the outside world starts

 He’s just a ‘lil guy!

Postscript: After the computer ate my photos three times, this post took me much longer than an hour to complete…Abby

Strike and Rally


Yesterday, the public bus system went on strike. It was a fiasco.  Roads were blocked by the many buses that stopped traffic by driving through town in a huge pack.  Thus, there were very few buses left to take people anywhere.

So today the city of Cali gravelled and begged its passenger’s forgiveness by providing free service all day. It was a fiasco.  There were SOOOOO many people trying to get on the bus in the afternoon.  The capacity of a large bus is supposedly some 160 people.  I am pretty sure we had that many in the front half.  Abby and I were literally smushed between people to such a degrees we couldn’t support ourselves.  Thus, when the bus stopped abruptly I smushed Abby…. and Abby (also tall, probably like 5’10″) smushed the 4 foot something little old lady in front of her.  And then we both started giggling and we couldn’t really get off her.  When the whole thing was over, Abby meekly said “perdon” and gently patted her on the top of the head.  I have never laughed harder.
Here’s a picture of the gentle blonde (curly-headed) giants on the packed bus… the people beside us look miniature, but I assure you, they are normal sized Colombians.


Yesterday, Magnolia (being Magnolia) helped me get things organized to go and see my little buddy (I’m gonna call her G from here on out) in the hospital.  With a little fanangaling and telling the guard at the door I was a student he hesitantly let me in what appeared to me as the back door entrance to the place.  I traveled up to the 5th floor with the caregiver who was on duty to stay with G during the day.  Level 5 is the pediatric infection area.  My friend G has had huge and profoundly deep pressure ulcers in her left leg that lead to a very serious case of osteomyelitis.

I got to her room (a tiny 8 by 8 room with a child sized hospital bed a plastic chair and a TV) and there she was… sitting on her bed.  She is not allowed to leave this room by the way because she is still on “isolation.” She looked at me with complete and utter shock in her eyes.  It took about 10 minutes for the shock to wear off, or maybe it was the UNO that made her feel comfortable. But soon, she was back to her old self: laughing, cheating at UNO, laughing again.  We had a photo session with my camera (she LOVES taking pictures) painted our fingernails and played some mean UNO.


But there was a sadness despite the fun we were having.  The stress of so much hospitalization on top of the challenges of her disability and obviously all the emotions that come with being neglected by your family, feeling like no one “wants you”… all these things have obviously taken a toll on her mentally.  She has always been a child that loves adult attention, but a little of her light has gone out.
There are so many questions about what will happen when she is finally discharged from the hospital.  Chiquetines is not equipped to handle teenagers so now that she is 13, she will have to go somewhere else.  But where? And will these people address all the needs that she has?  Not just the physical needs of having Spina Bifida, her foot ulcers, etc.  but also address her mental rehabilitation.
So here I present the RALLY… this little girl, my sweet friend G, needs to be adopted. She needs to be rescued from this cycle.  I know this is a huge and difficult task because of her many challenges.  But this girl wants to be loved more than anything!! And in the meantime, we need to get a sponsorship going. We need to make sure she gets to a place that will treat her as a whole person and help her develop skills that will allow her to be an independent adult.  We need to rally, we need to fight. She needs someone to fight for her.

And just so you can see how stinking adorable she is… here are some of the best shots from our photo shoot:

oh look... thats interesting... over there
 oh look…. that looks interesting… over there



It was a pretty serious photo shoot.


A Much Anticipated Guest

It’s only Tuesday and this week has already been full of excitement. Keely, a SuperKids alumnus and pediatric physical therapist (PT) stepped off a plane in the Cali airport late Saturday night and ever since, she has been making this week extra special. Not only do I get to spend my days working with adorable little ones but for a full week, I get to be privy to the expertise of a wonderful pediatric PT! How about that for a stunner of a week?!

Keely spent the better part of a year traveling Central and South America with the Superkids program in 2010/2011, working with children in Gladney orphanages in Colombia, Peru and Costa Rica.  She also worked in Ethiopia for two months in 2009. She has so much experience with pediatric PT, orphanage work ,and travel and has been kind enough to share her abundance of wisdom with me. We spent the last two days reviewing the needs of the children I’ve been working with and trying out a few new gadgets. It has been so nice to be able to bounce ideas off of someone else and get advice from someone who has in most instances “been there/done that”. Keely is well-versed in gross motor and mobility evaluations and interventions, so I’ve been gobbling up her knowledge. 

Beyond answering my questions, Keely has also been treating children and showing me around town. She brought a gait trainer for a little girl she worked with last year, and they have been having a ball reconnecting and trying out the new gadget. With the gait trainer, this little lady can take steps on her own and use her hands to play without having to worry about her trunk balance and being on a different level than her peers. The gait trainer will stay with her through the next month while her adoptive family is in town for the formal adoption process – something everyone at Chiquitines, myself included, is super excited for as this little one is an absolute joy to be around. Then it will be used by a little guy with a similar condition at another orphanage in Cali. I had the pleasure of traveling with Keely to try out the gait trainer on the second kiddo today, and it was really great to be able to see another institution and its similarities and differences. I’ll be teaching the physical therapist there how to use the gait trainer after Keely leaves, and I’m really looking forward to visiting again.

Also in Keely’s bag of tricks this week was a handful of ankle foot orthoses (AFOs) – braces that support the ankle joint in kids with muscle weakness, abnormal muscle resting tone or deformities. There’s one little guy in particular with really low muscle tone (think “floppy”) who by the end of this week will have a pair of braces that support his feet and ankles and help him walk better. Bonus: he gets brand new shoes to go with them since they require an extra wide sole! We spent this evening in one of Cali’s many shopping centers scouting out his new kicks and other therapy supplies. It has been wonderful having a travel companion with first hand experience of life in Cali. I’ve been here for a month now (today marks the half way point of my stay), but in many ways I feel like I am just now getting into the rhythm of Cali life. With Keely’s pointers in both the everyday way of all things Cali and the Chiquitines work to be done, the next four weeks are sure to be the best yet!

I’m sure I will be checking in again later this week as the excitement continues.

Hasta luego!


A little trimming and these donated braces will be ready for their new owner!

 This picture speaks for itself. Do notice the new shoes though – they’re a good three sizes smaller than her previous ones!

Bubble fun while standing in the new gait trainer!