Nicaragua—Hands-on Workshops: Learning to Make Low-Cost Assistive Devices for Disabled Children
In May, 2005, The Association of Parents of Disabled Children, better known as “Los Pipitos,” invited David Werner to visit them in Nicaragua. Los Pipitos began in 1987 when a small group of parents in Managua came together to look for ways to meet their disabled children’s needs. But it has grown amazingly. Today Los Pipitos has over 60 chapters in towns throughout Nicaragua. In the early years most of the children had developmental delay, mainly Down syndrome. But today kids with all sorts of disabilities are welcome. Thousands of families are involved.
‘Security Measures’ an Obstacle to Exchange Visits
My invitation to Nicaragua grew out of a frustrated attempt by three physiotherapists from Los Pipitos to visit PROJIMO in Mexico in 2004. For years the books that grew out of PROJIMO (Disabled Village Children and Nothing About Us Without Us) have been valued sources of ideas and innovation for both families and therapists. These books have proved especially useful now that Los Pipitos has begun a Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) initiative, as it tries to extend into rural areas and marginalized communities.
Unfortunately, the Mexican Embassy in Managua refused to grant visas to the physiotherapists from Nicaragua. Even when HealthWrights contacted the Mexican Ambassador, explaining the humanitarian purpose for the visit, the visas were “regretfully denied for security reasons.” Evidently this new restrictive policy by Mexican immigration is due to pressure from the US government. Since 9/11 it fears that Central Americans, even employed professionals, will use Mexico as a bridge for illegal entry into El Norte. So in lieu of visiting PROJIMO, Los Pipitos invited me to visit them. 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.