After helping children with mobility issues in an orphanage in Managua in 2011, Physical Therapist Andrew Suseno was eager to continue sharing his skills in rehabilitation and cardboard construction in Nicaragua. After meeting with Dos Pueblos to organize workshops which would train caregivers in adaptive solutions for living with a disability, Andrew is now in Tipitapa. The warmth of those in the communities is more than he could have imagined as he sees months of careful planning come to fruition.
Andrew Suseno: I finally landed in Managua at 1:30 early Friday morning, and was greeted by Rosa, Dos Pueblos' lead coordinator, and Gretchen, a New Yorker who is fast becoming 'nicaragüense', holding a sign that said "Dr. Andrew". The sound of confused roosters and the tiny 'zancudos' (mosquitos) did nothing to stop me falling into a deep sleep, ready for the week ahead.
On the first day we headed to the Tipitapa hospital to meet the director. His office felt like the refreshingly cold air of the subway after being outside in the New York heat. He was excited about introducing cardboard construction to the families of Tipitapa, where there was currently no solution to address the adaptive equipment needs of children.
In the afternoon we attended a community meeting, sitting in white plastic chairs with men, women and children on the porch of a concrete clinic. Family members crowded around with interest and concern, mothers held toddlers on their laps, and men sat on the paint-chipped floor. At first I was nervous about how to connect with everyone, but once we started talking they told me about a child with a learning disability, another who is unable to use her entire body except her head, a man who has not been able move his left arm since he was a child, and another young girl who was blind and could not stand. How could we reach a place of problem solving together with such vastly different needs? Then, somehow, between my middling Spanish, the questions I had prepared (What were the prior successes of the community? Tell me about an issue your child experiences in the school system?) and the excitement of cardboard construction and rehab, we began to see that we could engage the community in questions greater than just disability, integrating people with disabilities into a new concept of 'normal'. To finish up, we had an great conversation about creating a new image of the community and everyone left charged to begin the workshops.
To read Andrew's presentation on his work, click here. And we'll be back in touch very soon with news from the first round of workshops in Ciudadela.