A Labor of Love: Therapists Exchange Ideas - A Guest Blog Entry
By Carla Campbell, M.D., M.S.
Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos (Our Little Brothers) is an organization that provides a home to orphans or abandoned children needing their services. The goal is to create a place where these children can live with love and hope. The program seeks to instill confidence, security, independence, and responsibility in the children, and most importantly, provide them with an education. The children, in turn, do a year of service in one of the NPH orphanages when they become adults. Founded by priest William Wasson after he caught a child stealing from the offering can and decided to take him in, the group has been in existence since 1954 and has orphanages in Mexico, Honduras, Haiti, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Peru, Bolivia and the Dominican Republic. The DR orphanage was opened in 2003 and houses about 200 children.
The team’s two therapists, Natalie Danner (terapista fisica) and Soby Philip (terapista ocupacional), and a few other team members took a very interesting trip to see the NPH site in the Dominican Republic, which is located outside of San Pedro de Macoris. The compound extends for about 40 acres and includes 15 dormitory-style houses, a clinic, a library, two schools, an office, a kitchen, water tank, water purification plant, a huge greenhouse growing tomatoes and lettuce, a garden with papaya and banana plants, several playgrounds, a park with flower gardens, and beautiful bright murals on the walls (inside and outside). The PT room is airy and welcoming, with toys and bright colors everywhere. On one wall is a mural showing characters from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Beyond the buildings are green fields and lots of blue (or gray when rain is threatening) skies.
I had the chance to visit one of the dormitories housing teenage boys from 12 to 15 years old. They were attending grades 7 and 8. The bulletin board in the common room was very organized and included a chore chart, schedule for sports practice, rules for maintaining peace and rules for courtesy. They boys seemed happy and were very polite. A few practiced English with me. I shared a meal of fish, rice and beans with them and spoke to the tia (aunt) who is housemother to them. (Each communal house has two tias who share coverage through the week).
After the two American therapists became acquainted with the two German therapists providing service at NPH, they started exchanging ideas and notes, and were chattering away at a mile a minute. Nikki had been at the orphanage for awhile, and at one point was providing the physical therapy (PT), occupational therapy (OT) and speech therapy for all the children! She was recently joined by Katarina, who has been there for 6 weeks.
I had the chance to observe Natalie working with Nikki to determine the best therapeutic approach for a boy who had bad contractures, was very disabled, and unable to talk. They talked about ways to loosen his tone to exercise his muscles and discussed feeding techniques. They worked in the PT room and also at the home dedicated to special needs children. When Natalie works with children her lovely face lights up with enthusiasm and joy, and she seems to put 200% effort into every encounter she performs. Soby, likewise, is very dedicated to providing quality care to her little patients. It was very exciting to see these 4 therapists from different backgrounds bond together to exchange ideas and notes about providing the best care possible to the children they serve. A true labor of love!