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