The Forgotten Children

Trip Start Feb 20, 2013
1
6
64
Trip End May 09, 2013


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Flag of Philippines  , Visayas,
Monday, February 25, 2013

Hello All,

Today, I wasn't able to work on the Cangumbang Project because the land owner still hadn't gotten the needed documents together. But tomorrow morning she will have them ready so we can meet with her and our attorney and sort on the documents so we can purchase the land.

Instead in the morning, I had my first internship orientation with Ate Wimwim (the director of Volunteer for Visayans-VFV). My orientation today focused on the complex financial system unique to VFV, which obviously contributes greatly to the success of any non profit organization. Right now my priority is securing the land for the project, but when their are gaps in my schedule I will begin my training for my internship.

This afternoon I decided to go back to the orphanage I have spent countless hours at during my past two stays in the Philippines. I am sure many of you remember me talking about my experiences in the orphanage, which is run by the government's Department of Social Welfare and Development.  I have spent the majority of my time there caring for 12-17 babies in the nursery, plus an additional 2 children with disabilities. The nursery can be a crazy place at times, with toddlers running around and infants in their cribs needing constant feeding, diaper changes, and attention, not to mention the lone staff member left to care for all the babies. So having orphanage volunteers is quite a big help to the nursery staff. Since I first visited in 2009, I have seen the quality of treatment in the orphanage increase dramatically.

During my first visit to the orphanage in May 2009, I was appalled to find toddlers literally tied by their ankles to their metal cribs. They had clear bruise marks on their ankles and some of them even slight physical abnormalities because of their constant tugging to get free. I couldn't help but untie the children, despite being scolded by the staff, and I have to admit I taught more than one child how to untie themselves. So after volunteering there for a few weeks, the children were no longer tied and when I returned in 2011 I was happy to see that restraint was still completely absent in the nursery.

Another issue with the nursery was the tile floor. When the toddlers were let out of their cribs for play time, and some of the babies able to crawl, it often ended in tears. Babies would topple over reaching for a toy, smacking their heads on the hard floor. Toddlers would chase each other and end up slipping on some stray milk from a bottle,  falling a bruising knees or elbows. However, with 15 or more babies and toddlers in one room, it was completely unrealistic to suggest any type of carpeting. After all I had witnessed first hand the amount of accidents and spilled bottles the tile endured each day. Today when I visited I was happy to see the nursery had been expanded, knocking down a wall that separated a play area for the older children from the nursery. The play area was converted in to a play area for the toddlers and babies, with rubber puzzle mats covering the floor to protect the children.

I have always been drawn back to the orphanage time and time again because of their need for additional help in the orphanage, but honestly I don't know how anyone could resist the adorable faces of all the babies literally reaching out for love and attention. I was so happy to see so many new faces in the nursery today, it is sad to not be able to see the babies grow up but I know if they are gone that they are with a family who will love them forever and give them all the attention they could ever need. Their were 3 toddlers with the older children, Timothy, Daniel, and Don Mark, who I cared for in 2011. So it was exciting to see each of them again, when I shouted their names and quickly scooped them up for a cuddle they smiled and gave me a slightly surprised look. Their was also one toddler still in the nursery, Jesse, who has just a tiny infant that last time I saw him. He was actually extremely ill when he arrived at the orphanage in 2011, so I was ecstatic to see him healthy and happy. :)

Unfortunately, their are two children with disabilities who I first met in 2009 who have yet to be adopted out of the orphanage. In most ways they are the most needy children of all, but still they are the hardest to find adoptive families for. Jasmine, is a 9 year old with autism and developmental delay. She is a ball full of energy and instantly smiles at the sound of her name, especially when I sing "Jas, Jas, Jassssmine!" She loves to follow me around and sit on my lap, even if their is already a baby in it. She can't eat solid food yet, but she continues to attend feeding therapy and is still a healthy 9 year old. Today the orphanage staff said she may actually have potential adoptive parents, after spending almost her entire life at the orphanage. She deserves a better life so badly.

The other child is Jonathan, a 6 year old boy with severe cerebral palsy. At birth his mother attempted to abort him and fortunately Jonathan survived, although he lives with the consequences of his mothers decision. Jonathan cannot speak, he still cannot consume solid foods, and he his eyes spasm back and forth constantly. The brain damage caused to Jonathan from his birthing method hasn't ever been truly diagnosed, so his long term prognosis is unclear. During my stay in 2011, I focused on taking Jonathan to physical therapy almost every week day. At the age of 5 it was his first time attending physical therapy because previously he had been too weak. His flexibility and muscle mass increased greatly. After 6 months of PT Jonathan was able to sit up by himself for short periods and even stand on all fours for 30 seconds, which was an immense success considering he could hardly bend at the waist or straighten his arms and legs in the beginning. When I saw Jonathan today he was his usual self. He looked curiously around the room at the sound of my voice, as he lay in his crib, and opened his mouth wide when I called his name. As I picked him up and tickled him and bit, he broke out in a big grin. I scratched his head, like he had always liked, and he instantly relaxed in my arms. I can never get enough of him. Due to the limited ability of staff to transport him to therapy every day, he only goes once a week now, which I was very concerned about at first. But when I did some stretching with Jonathan he surprised me. He was even able to sit up on his own for a short period.

I was disappointed to see Jonathan seemed slightly ignored still. His finger nails were so long he had scratched his belly multiple times, as he easily does when his muscles spasm. I gave him a quick manicure and pedicure, while he sat up against some pillows and happily watched me as well as the children playing in the play area. Then as I was checking him over for any other issues, I noticed a lot of wax build up in his ears. I tried to use a Q-tip but it was rock hard, so I asked the houseparent to help. She ended up pulling out a piece of hardened wax that was nearly an inch long and black in color. Clearly it had been in there far too long, and his other ear looked the exact same. I don't know how no one had noticed, but maybe after spending nearly 30 minutes removing it today they will remember to check more often.

If any of you are interested in adopting a child, especially one with disabilities, or know anyone who is interested in adoption please email me at elsa.thomasma@gmail.com. And I can put you in contact with the people responsible for placing the children at my orphanage. All the children there, and in the whole world for that matter, deserve a family and deserve the love and attention they can never receive in their current environment. 

 
Elsa
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Comments

Suzy on

I hope this trip brings Jasmine and Jonathan forever families!!

Randi on

Poor Jonathan. I hope they take better care of him and his ears.

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