Since I came back to France one month ago, the daily routine of life and work in Paris has taken back its rights and leave less time for blog writing. Nevertheless, far away from us, in Kullu, our small Handimachal Kullu Therapy Unit is keeping up its pace.
On 16 May, the Handimachal team was complete again when Linda Lefranc, our new OT volunteer, joined our Unit; Linda had decided long ago to devote her annual holidays to the disabled children of the valley and she will be there until 25 June. Right away, Linda got into work, meeting some of the children, getting acquainted with working habits but also bringing some new ideas. Her friend Hafite, who accompanied her for 2 weeks holiday, was kept busy: improving the electrical network of the Unit, making a new device to provide extra rehabilitation exercises for Ramnek’s arm, etc. nothing extraordinary for a good handiman! But what is more unusual is the transformation of a small room of the Unit into a snoezelen room, dedicated to multisensorial stimulation of disabled children. Of course it will not be as sophisticated as what can be found in Europe, but Hafite has put all his heart and energy painting the walls and fitting electrical bulbs and the room will soon be equipped with carpets and mattresses so that children may evolve in a soothing and stimulating environment. This is quite a recent concept in Europe, no need to say it is real science fiction here! Thank you Hafite for your hard work. (view pictures here)
During her first weekend in the valley, Linda could take part in the monthly awareness camp which was organized this time in Haripur village, near Naggar, on the usual pattern. During this camp, 11 children were presented to the Handimachal team, among which 2 were referred to the Unit (as others presented deficiencies which cannot be treated in the Unit for the moment). Of course, such awareness camps are essential: the aim is not to attract as many children as possible to the Unit but to deliver information on basic public health concepts and messages capable of changing mentalities. And of course to tell parents of disabled children they are not alone anymore.
Last Wednesday, Kanica and Linda went to villages for their first visit in the frame of the weekly home-based programme, in cooperation with the NAB School team who recently implemented a similar programme, based on education for visually impaired children, some of them facing multiple disabilities. Both teams confronted their lists in order to organize joint visits and share transportation expenses. The aim of such programme, as far as we are concerned, is to identify around 10 children who cannot come or be carried to the Unit in order to assess their status, design and implement physiotherapy and/or occupational therapy treatments, and also to reorganize the child’s direct environment in order to improve his/her chances of evolution. As an example, in the first family visited by Kanica and Linda, it was proposed to the parents to have a wooden chair made for their teenage boy, fixed to the wall and designed in order to fully support his body sitting up, so that his field of perception could be expanded.
I would like to end this page by thanking very warmly our generous donators this month (among whom Diane Crittin from Switzerland, Oliver and Rebecca Hommann from the UK). We have decided to recruit an Indian speech therapist as soon as possible, as the number of children suffering with speech problems is really important in the valley (in Haripur only, we met 2 children facing such difficulties). Such recruitment is under way and could be finalized (if every goes well) during my next visit in Kullu, at the beginning of July.
On 2 July I will fly again to Delhi and Kullu together with a new OT volunteer from France, Severine Crampe, who is offering six months of her life to our project. She will be working in team with another French volunteer, Emma Angebaud, during one month, before welcoming Catriona Helliwell who will also join the project for six months from mid-September 2010 to mid-March 2011, when we are hoping to be able to hire a local occupational therapist on a permanent basis.
Handimachal is progressing, steadily step by step.
Dominique, 29 May 2010
View the May photo album