The Managua Seminar
During my week in Nicaragua, the organizers of my visit set up an intensive but exciting agenda. First was a full day “encuentro” or seminar in Managua titled “Assistive Measures, Independent Living, and Community Based Rehabilitation.” The 250 attendees included representatives of Los Pipitos from all over the country, staff from the Health Ministry, and key persons from the universities and various charitable organizations.
Likewise present at the seminar, and participating in the subsequent workshops, were more than 20 “mediators” from Stichting Liliane Fonds (SLF), a Dutch Foundation that provides assistance to needy disabled children throughout the developing world. Many of these SLF mediators are also active leaders in Los Pipitos. SLF has been enormously helpful to PROJIMO in Mexico. The whole day of the seminar was devoted almost completely to my presentations. Using PowerPoint pictorial graphics (mostly photos and drawings), I gave a series of presentations including:
Crutches for Pipi—a story showing the importance of learning from one another and problem-solving as equals (adapted from Disabled Village Children)
Overview of PROJIMO—how it differs from the standard CBR approach.
Community Based Rehab (CBR) and the Independent Living Movement—the challenge of combining the best and avoiding the weaknesses of both.
Child-to-Child activities—a discovery-based approach with a focus on inclusion of disabled children.
Four Women in Four Lands—the importance of adapting assistive devices to the local environment.
True stories that graphically illustrate key principles such as, “Look at my strengths not my weaknesses,” “Liberation, not normalization!” “Making therapy functional and fun," and “Nothing About Us Without Us.”
LOOK AT MY STRENGTHS, NOT MY WEAKNESSES
In the Managua Seminar, David told “The Story of Jesus” to demonstrate the disabled persons’ motto: “LOOK AT MY STRENGTHS, NOT MY WEAKNESSES.” The narrative concerns Jesus Orosco, a Mexican boy with spina bifida who lost one leg due to bone infection and then became visually impaired. Jesus came from a very difficult home situation. But with help from PROJIMO and Child-to-Child activities, as he has grown up he has become a very caring, hard working rehabilitation worker—and wheelchair racer in a three-wheeler he helped build. Jesus has developed incredible strength in his arms and upper body.
Everybody has a Story
With such a large audience, in the seminar it was not easy to get everyone participating. But some interaction was achieved through story telling. After telling an eye-opening true story I would ask people to tell a similar story from their own experience. For example, following my story of “Crutches for Pipi,” participants gave their own examples that show how, when professionals and family members learn from each other and draw on each other’s skills, the results are often better. (The same is, of course, true when the speaker at a seminar draws on the knowledge of participants.)