Story from the PROJIMO workshop: Helping Eli Become More Independent
For the SLF workshop, in Mexico, Dolores Mesina—a disabled graduate of PROJIMO who is now a social worker with the government’s Integrated Family Development program (DIF)—arranged for the participation of several disabled children in need, whom the PROJIMO team had not seen before.
One of these children was 11-year-old Eli (Elizabeth), who lives with her father, Daniel, in a stick hut on the edge of the main North-South highway. Since Eli’s mother died 3 years ago, Daniel has stayed at home to care for his disabled daughter. He has lived by begging. Sometimes he takes his daughter to the nearest village on a 3-wheel bicycle, to the front of which he has attached an enclosed seat for her.
During the workshop, various ideas and designs were discussed to help Eli become more self-sufficient. At present she was completely dependent on her father, who fed her, bathed her, and did everything for her. However Eli had a lot of possibilities. She had good hand control, and although her legs were quite spastic she could stand by herself when holding onto a firm object.
The group discussed with Daniel things he could do to help Eli do more for herself. But although at one level he wanted her to become more independent, at another level, Daniel seemed to find a certain satisfaction in his daughter’s complete dependency on him. So the group decided to invite Eli and Daniel to spend a few weeks at PROJIMO.
After the SLF workshop, Daniel and Eli spent 2 months at PROJIMO. The team worked with father and daughter. They taught Daniel activities to help Eli begin to pull herself to standing, and to begin to walk between parallel bars. By learning these skills, she could take more responsibility for shifting herself onto a toilet, and from her new wheelchair (which they made for her) to a cot. A visiting physiotherapist from Holland, Gonneke Rota, who volunteers in a CBR program in Nicaragua, was helpful in figuring out appropriate, functional exercises for Eli.
By the time they left PROJIMO, Eli could do a lot more for herself, and Daniel took pride in helping her do so. The big challenge remaining is how to help Daniel become more self-sufficient. One possibility will be to help him start a tire-repair shop on the highway by his home.