Friday, January 19, 2007

St. Julie Centre - Day 1

The St. Julie Centre for Disabled Children.

Play area and sitting and standing devices without mats.

Parallel bars and tweeter platform with ball.

Hammock swing made out of a truck tire.

The cabinet full of fun play therapy toys.

On Thursday January 18th, Ryan and I began working in Malava at the St. Julie Centre for disabled children. It was a pretty good first day. The patients and staff at the St. Julie Center are all Kenyans so at points it could be a little awkward when a parent or co-worker only spoke in Swahili, but altogether everyone seemed to welcome us into our new roles. The Centre is a fairly small building with only four rooms that is rented and maintained by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Parents and children enter through the largest of the rooms which is used for "play therapy." Play therapy is physical or occupational therapy for children made fun with toys. This room has soft mats covering one corner of the floor, child seats and other devices to teach children how to sit and stand, a child-size table with chairs at another end, parallel bars for children learning to walk, a small teetering platform for children developing balance, and plenty of space for a child's push-cart and tricycle. At one end of the play therapy room there is a much smaller room for physical or occupational therapy done by trained therapists. In this room, there are massage tables and a hammock swing made out of a large truck tire cut in half. David and Angela are the physical or occupational therapists on staff. They each work with a child one-on-one usually by stimulating their nerves and senses with massage and swinging before they send them out for play-therapy. At the other end of the Centre is a small office that keeps track of patients files and also a "toy library." The toy library was set-up by last years volunteers and offers an assortment of toys of all kinds that will provide both fun and therapy for the kids. Some of the toys can be checked out and taken out of the Centre for use in the home. Everyday at about noon the staff will sit together in the office and take tea. Kenyan tea is called "chai." It is black tea made with milk and sugar. Tea is often served with bread, biscuits (shortbread sugar cookies), mandazi (a donut-like pastry), or chapatis (thin bread similar to a flour tortilla). Tea time is a nice relaxing break, but it is almost unnecessary. The hours the Centre is open are surprisingly short. Ryan and I will be there Monday through Thursday, 8:30 AM to 1:00PM. Staff meetings will take place on Fridays.

Our first day went incredibly well. We spent time with the staff and other volunteers, met some parents, and most importantly got to play with the kids.

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