Creating Ripples …


This year's experience at La Ciudad de la Esperanza has been difficult for me to put into words. As with each year, things seem to just fall into place and the worry leading up to the trip melts away as we walk into Clinic on the first day. The greetings and smiles we receive and return to the Esparanza team and community patiently waiting for us to set up fill my heart with joy. 

This year we met even more remarkable people who showed me what it means to be family and community. Mothers, Fathers and Aunties brought in babies for guidance and help to address their physical, medical and emotional needs. Patients we have seen before came in and we marveled at their progress and growth since last year. We provided a safe space for women to express their needs and emotions. Sometimes we provide medicine, or exercises, or tools to help, but often we just listen, hold hands and pray. 

As a physical therapist, a mother, a teacher, a friend, I want to “fix” things. In the States, a patient comes to me and I obtain things - wheelchairs, gait trainers, crutches, standers - to provide the opportunity for these children to engage in their environment and community. In Cobán these items are not only out of reach, but they are unnecessary. Instead of buying equipment I find myself asking “ How can I best support you? What are you struggling with?” And the answer is always “Thank you for coming. Thank you for caring.” I listen, I educate, I support and I hope that this is enough until next year, when I will bring more items and more knowledge to help. 

This year I had the opportunity to go down the hill from the clinic and tour EDECRI, a school for children with special needs. This school, unknown to me until this year and hesitant to have outside people come in, is amazing. In the morning it is a school for children of all ages to come and learn. In the afternoon it is a program for people to come learn a trade - cooking, car detailing, agriculture, computer science. They told me they are the first, and perhaps only, school for children with special needs in Guatemala that is recognized by the Ministry of Education. They have physical therapy, speech therapy, and child psychology.  We began the first steps of collaboration. They will follow a sweet 5 day old baby that came to the clinic with a severe cleft palate and Down Syndrome through at least the next year. I was able to provide a walking stick and instruction to a young adult who is blind and one of their physical therapists to increase independence. We discussed a potential surgical intervention for a teenager with Cerebral Palsy.  I hope our two communities will continue to collaborate in the years to come. A set of twins with Cerebral Palsy came Into the clinic this year, they are severely motorically impacted, but they are very communicative and have much to share. Knowing this school exists gives me great hope. I hope they will have an opportunity to work with the speech therapist and learn additional communication skills to engage with their world. 

I am eternally grateful to be a part of this amazing team and thank each and every person who helps to make this project possible. Gracias a dios. Que la esperanza y la luz los guíen  

-Deborah Bauer, PT DPT

Medical Team Physical Therapist 


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