Hello everyone, I must start by saying what a pleasure it is to write a post for Dan’s blog, i.e. he’s making me write one! True but im still happy to tell you what its like volunteering with the disabled children. I’m no great writer like Daniel but I’ll try my best to keep your attention! Also knowing this blog is Daniel’s pride and joy, I better not mess this up! Here we go…
It takes a 15 minute walk to placement and being so hot, by the time we get there we’re always on the sweaty side. However after 4 weeks doing this, I’ve definitely got used to it! This centre is not only where I go to daycare but it’s also where the medical program is, where volunteers get to watch live surgeries and help with physiotherapy. Our first day at daycare the other volunteers and I didn’t have a clue what to do and it didn’t help that the nurses don’t speak a word of English. This made things really difficult as we couldn’t ask them the simplest questions about the kids and how to help. However as the day went on we found a few of the children were really good at speaking English! One was so fluent he was asking me about American politics and english football teams! This was one moment it would help if I actually liked football! Anyway I tried my best to keep the conversation going! Once we started to bond with the kids we all really enjoyed the program. The children were so used to having new volunteers it was quite funny how it was them telling us what to do.
The day care is split up into 2 rooms, one we spend most of the day in, the other is where the children eat, this can be quite time-consuming due to most children have to be hand fed. There are about 30 children overall and the majority of them have Cerebral Palsy, a disorder that occurs when the brain is damaged during a child’s early development resulting in poor muscle control. This can affect a child’s movement, speech, hearing, and vision which can give abnormal muscle tone and unusual postures. Some of the children have no problem moving around with help and can communicate with us pretty well, where as some can’t move or talk at all.
8:00am – We arrive and help the children with their writing skills, I usually try to stimulate the children who can’t write or else they spend most of their day lying on the floor being pretty bored. Using puzzles and other toys we try to develop their fine motor skills and eye coordination.
10:00am – We move to the other room for lunch time. Some children will be able to move themselves by ether walking or crawling where as some children will have to be carried through. We tend to stick to feeding the same child so they get used to us, if they aren’t it’s a hard challenge getting then to finish their bowl. Once every child has eaten they settle down to nap, however this usually always ends up in pillow fights! m
11:30am – While the children nap we return to the college for lunch and being so tired we like to have nap too.
1:45pm – The children wake up and have a small snack, then they are washed with a wet towel and changed into fresh clothes. Some of the older children like to help changing to younger ones.
2:30pm – Some afternoons the children will have sign language classes but mostly this is free playtime. After learning some basic sign language myself it was easier to communicate with the children who couldn’t talk.
3:30pm – One by one, parents take their children home.
4:30pm – Time for us to leave.
Each kid is totally different in how sever their disability affects them but still each kid is lovable in their own way! Pronouncing the children’s Vietnamese names was sometimes difficult so instead we gave them nicknames, here are a few of the many children we work with…
The King was the first we noticed because he immediately started asking our names and where we came from? He’s 15 years old with extremely good english and an awesome sense of humor. He always has us in stitches during pillow fights and he always helps us know what to do. He loved having the volunteers around to practice his English and prank us but the most loving thing about him was his caring nature towards the other kids, always changing them and making sure no harm came their way from the other children.
We call him trumpet because he always lies on his back staring at the ceiling making trumpet sounds which was the only sound he ever made. The first 2 days we noticed he would only lay on his back due to he couldn’t walk… Oh so we thought, on day 3 trumpet suddenly out of no where stood up and walked to the other side of the room! The look on all our faces were just gobsmacked. This was the last thing i ever expected after most of the children can not walk where as he could walk perfectly. Since then Trumpet was so pleasant to be around. He likes you to stand in front of him where he can put his feet on you or lean against you while he plays with your hair.
This kid is amazing to work with, he can’t walk, can’t talk and can’t hardly keep his head up but will never stop smiling. Half the day he will be in a wheel chair and the other half be lying on a pillow. He loves to throw the ball, especially on the floor so he can laugh when you go pick it up! I’ve also noticed he really likes long hair and i always find myself with a few missing because of it. I sometimes feed him his snack after nap time and when I do it’s always a blast, i put the spoon near his month where he then holds the spoon with me (smiling of course) and puts it in himself. He’s so pleased with himself after every spoonful he immediately wants to celebrate with a high-five!
This adorable creature is one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen, hence she’s called Little Angel! She loves anybody singing to her and she always knows its me and smiles when I sing “nose, nose” and “cheek, cheek” while pointing at hers and my own face! Sadly she can’t move hardly at all, she has poor neck muscles which means she can’t hold her head up very long and her fingers and toes are curled and clenched. Ways we have tried to help her are by supporting her hold her head up and trying to get her to follow objects. We found she enjoys when you full her fingers out slowly. Unfortunately our Little Angel was not there our last week so i didn’t get the chance for a proper goodbye but I will never forget her or the other kids that were all so inspiring.
It’s hard to see any children with disabilities like these but getting to know them can be the most rewarding experiences. I knew these children for 4 weeks and they opened my eyes massively! I can only hope to one day see them again and if not hope they all live long, happy and healthy lives!