A Family for All Children
We see the value and potential in all children, regardless of ability level.
October 16, 2018 - Dominican Republic
In a country where reliable medical care is often expensive and scarce, and the closest services for children living with special needs in the surrounding area is nearly 60 miles away in the capital; NPH stays true to their mission of helping all children in need.
At the NPH Dominican Republic home, we have taken on the responsibility of caring for children with special needs and providing them with the resources necessary to grow and prosper. Casa San Marcos is our house for children with special needs who have conditions where they are unable to walk. San Marcos is equipped with wheelchair accessible bathrooms, including lifts for baths, therapy rooms, and a therapy pool, all located around a tranquil courtyard.
Casa San Marcos is a state of the art facility thanks to Marco Simoncelli and family. After the passing of Marco Simoncelli, a professional motorcycle racer, a foundation was created in his name to support disabled children. They learned about our need in the Dominican Republic, and with the help of our fundraising parter, Fondazione Francesca Rava - NPH Italy, Casa San Marcos opened in 2014.
The children living within this home require skilled, around the clock care. Luckily, our dedicated staff in San Marcos are able to provide such care. One of the very important members to our therapy team in San Marcos is Alice, a volunteer from Italy, who serves the role of assistant director of San Marcos. Alice provided a peek into the daily schedules of learning and therapy for the children in the home.
Their day begins at 8:00 a.m. with morning circle, where they begin with songs and activities to help improve recognition of colors, numbers, and days of the week. This is followed by walks outside in the park, craft time with the caregivers, and a midmorning snack. Stretching of muscles is something very important for children who are wheelchair bound, so every morning, the caregivers and therapists work on getting the children out of their wheelchairs and in braces to assist in stretching.
Around 12:00 p.m., lunch is served and the caregivers and Alice are responsible for feeding each child. The afternoons in Casa San Marcos are filled with more therapy and naps - Providing Alice just enough time to get her office work done, which includes documenting the children’s health and nutrition. This proves a busy and challenging daily schedule for all involved, due to the many changes in health and doctor’s visits.
Casa San Marcos is a unique special needs home in that five of the seven children living in the home have the same medical condition, but to different extremes. Arranging the home in this way makes it much easier to give the proper care to each child. One of the main difficulties in caring for these children specifically is the feeding. Some children are fed through feeding tubes, which are a challenge to clean and change. Others are fed by bottle.
“Feeding by bottle can prove to be one of the most challenging parts of caring for the children of San Marcos,” said Alice, “their throats and muscles are always very tense and it is very important to feed the children in a way where they can swallow properly without choking.”
With challenges like these, having a strong team that functions as a unit within the walls of San Marcos is extremely important. The San Marcos team functions as individuals who have specific duties, coming together for the greater good of each child. The foundation of this team are the caregivers, who are with the children 24 hours a day. Different caregivers have different jobs - some are there to work with the child in a direct way by giving baths, feeding, and making sure the child is where they need to be. Other caregivers are working around the home preparing meals and cleaning.
The second part of the San Marcos team are the therapists and directors. “It is extremely important for all of us to work together for the same goal and communicate with one another,” Alice explains. “Therapy sessions are only an hour at a time, we have to train the caregivers on how to continue to work on therapy techniques that need to be done three or four times a day.” The therapists not only provide the important therapy needed to improve the children’s lives, but they also provide trainings for the caregivers to properly handle the situations that may arise. Alice noted, “Participation by everyone is key.”
As you can expect, not everything goes according to plan in Casa San Marcos. Coordination between outside doctors and nurses can be difficult. Implementing what is taught in the trainings is often much easier said than done. But at the end of the day, Alice wouldn’t trade her experience in the home for anything. When asked what is the most rewarding about working in the San Marcos home Alice added, “When the kids are happy I’m happy.”
Communications Officer Assisant