Monday, October 27, 2014

20 days/485 hours/29,100 seconds

There is a reason why the first thing we often ask someone after we learn their name is where they come from. Where's home? It is because the notion of "home" is imperative to human life.

Throughout time, writers and scholars alike have all attempted to define this essential concept. In the second poem of the Four Quartets, T.S Eliot writes that "home is where one starts from". Personally, I favour the definition scribed in the book "Honey for a Child's Heart". In this work, Gladys Hunt raised the question "what is home?" Her response to this was "[home] is a safe place, a place where one experiences secure relationships and affirmation. It's a place where people share and understand each other".

So how does Hope Home fit into that concept? Hope Home is a safe place. The children that reside there are secure, nurtured and more than anything - loved. It is a home in the truest sense of the word, just like your own personal home.

With that in mind, I would like you to envision something. Imagine you are a boy. Imagine you are ten years of age. Imagine waking up in the morning, lazily extending your limbs to and fro to shake out the drowsiness. Then imagine being gently told that in approximately two weeks you would be moving to a strange city ten hours away. Then imagine being gently told that you would be making this journey all by yourself with only your few belongings in tow. Now you can stamp this described visualization as dramatic, absurd or even unbelievable - but your stamp would be false. For it is believable, I can attest to that.

Unfortunately, this agonizing story played out at Hope Hope in the past couple of weeks to an amazing boy. A boy who has experienced such hardship in his body that has been ravaged by severe cerebral palsy. A boy that despite his illness mounted against him showed extreme determination and tenacity in countless scenarios. A boy that still managed to physically move himself around and hold himself tall - all with limited assistance. A boy who transformed himself into a beacon of light and a fountain of positive energy. A boy that though physically confined in a wheelchair the majority of the time, did not allow his spirit to be contained.

Well amazing boy, if words could drift off this page and travel on a magical paper airplane through the sky - I would send the following to you. I wish that your inner strength only grows in the face of the adversity you are facing. I wish that your happiness does not dim following this storm of turmoil. I wish that your smile breaks through the oppressive mask that has been molded by your arduous departure. I wish that you find a small amount of comfort in knowing you are thought about every single day. Lastly, I wish that in this short time that has passed you have already impacted someone in your new home. For in just 20 days/485 hours/29,100 minutes - you impacted me so tremendously.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Wildflower Home Blog 7

Although I wrote a lot about my weekends in the last blogs, eighty percent
of my life in Chiang Mai is determined by my work at Wildflower Home. A
few things have changed at Wildflower Home and with it my tasks have
changed as well. I work in the farm until lunch break. This involves
cleaning pig stables, fastening bank slopes and setting up a vegetable
garden. I like the work there. It is rhythmic and it is dynamic. Your head
is absolutely empty. There is just the sound of your rake hitting the
ground and the smacking sound of the soil giving in. This is accompanied
by the choir of roosters crowing all around you. No deadlines are pressed
but instead you´re just giving your best. You work to your tempo, taking
breaks when ever need them. If it´s not ready, you´ll finish it tomorrow.
I have learned a lot about my physical limits, but I was also surprised by
some of my skills. Skills which I never would have assumed I had. I have
learned that hard work brings people together. The breaks provide a great
opportunity to get to know the members of Wildflower Home better. It gives
you time to hear their stories and to understand why they are at WFH.
Overall, working in the farm is definitely the highlight of my day.

In addition to my work on the farm, I´m teaching English in the afternoon.
This is one activity which is really fun. Beside that, I am doing crafts
and handmade cards. I find that these can be dreary. But the kids provide
a light to the tedium with their running around and playing with our art
supplies. They always seem to be giggling and screaming. Since some
mothers with older kids have left, there are only three kids around two
year’s age. Therefore, there is no nursery currently functioning. Whoever
is around simply watches the cluster of children. Though their presence
makes the card production slightly slower, when a happy two year old jumps
on your lap the interaction brings the biggest smile to your face.

Hydrohappy (Stacey Braun)

The use of water as a form of therapy is not a modern concept by any means. The ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman civilizations all have forms of hydrotherapy recorded. In fact, Hippocrates - the father of modern medicine - prescribed bathing in spring water for sickness (Pappas et al). Conversely, the use of water as a form of therapy for children with cerebral palsy (or other disabilities) may be a newer concept.

It is well documented that children with cerebral palsy may be only capable of a limited number of movements. However, with the use if water, exercise becomes more feasible for these children. The buoyancy of water: reduces the effects of gravity, poor balance, and poor postural support (Kelly and Darrah). In fact, water can act as a brace and physically provide postural support. Though it may be important, support is not the only benefit of hydrotherapy.

Hydrotherapy has numerous benefits for children with cerebral palsy. Being in water  fosters the movement of limbs and it encourages stiff muscles to relax. This relaxing is aided by the warm temperate of the pool water. In addition, hydrotherapy can create a fantastic opportunity for sensory feedback (Thorpe and Reilly). Children can hear the sounds of splashing water and feel the warm water lap against their body. Furthermore, it has been stated that "perceptual and visual motor skills [also] improve because water slows down movement and gives children time to react" (Thorpe and Reilly).

Overall, it is without question that I noted each of the above benefits with the children's hydrotherapy session this week.

On Monday, after an approximately 30 minute long drive,  some of the Hope Home children and staff arrived via songthaew at Chiang Mai University's Faculty of Associated Medical Sciences. It is within this faculty that the Physical Therapy department is housed.

Following a swift change of attire, as a group we leisurely eased into the hydrotherapy pool. Initially, I found the water noticeably warmer than what I was used to. This temperature is due to the fact that hydrotherapy pools are generally between 33 and 34 degrees Celsius. This warm water is utilized because it  has a relaxing effect and can help decrease muscle tone.

Over the course of the next hour, a variety of activities were performed with the assistance of the physical therapy students. Initially, we began with getting comfortable in the water - floating and splashing around. Though some children acclimated immediately, others were very hesitant and required some coaching.

Afterwards, we formed a circle with each child/caregiver pairing. From this arrangement we sang songs while encouraging the children to move their limbs in the water. At this point in the program you could see each child's personality shine through. The loud and rowdy children needed to thrash about the wildest. The prim and proper princesses showed their enjoyment with grins and giggles.

Subsequently, after a period of time had passed we played a "fetch" type game. The physical therapy student leader dumped a bin of balls - containing a myriad of sizes and colours - into the water. They then instructed the children to collect the balls and place them back in the bin. Here I truly began to see the benefits of this treatment. Children who were do confined on land exhibited such independence and tenacity. Confidence that was initially in the shadows, rose to take centre stage. This moment illustrated in vivid colour the purpose of this therapy.

Finally, to conclude the session we did a series of races. All child/caregiver pairings lined up at one wall and then at the leaders command, moved to the parallel wall. We jumped. We spun. We thrashed about. We laughed. We grew. Whether it was physical, mental or emotional - we all grew.

Thorpe DE, Reilly M. The effect of an aquatic resistive exercise program on lower extremity strength, energy expenditure, functional mobility, balance and self- perception in an adult with cerebral palsy; a retrospective case report. J Aquatic Phys Ther. 2000; 8: 18- 24.

Kelly M, Darrah J. Aquatic exercise for children with cerebral palsy. Dev Med and Child Neurol. 2005; 47: 838- 842.

Geralis E. Children with cerebral palsy: A Parent’s Guide. 2nd ed. Woodbine House, Inc. Bethesda, USA. 1998.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Lost and Found

I´ve been in Chiang Mai over 2 months without seeing any temples in the city and I thought it was time to change that. Together with my Canadian roommate – you´ve probably red her blog already – I stated to make a plan. We are both no big fans of motorbikes, to we chose man power, bicycles.
The city is – thank god- not too hilly, our bikes didn´t have any gears.The first day was a perfect one, we saw Wat Phanoha, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Singh, Wat Lam Chang and Wat Chiang Man (last three highly recommended) in the older city. Additionally, we also saw a terracotta garden and I had the best smoothie so far.

Encouraged by this first day, we reached for more. Wat Wela Wanaram, Wat Ku Tao and Wat Jet Yet were the plan. Wat Wela Wanaram has an interesting museum with everything. This included an elephants head over photos of old Chiang Mai to radios from the early 20th century. The temple itself isn´t
one of the important ones, but is with its five pediments from architectural beauty.

Following the river from Wat Wela Wanaram we headed to the north. The understanding that cycling on the big roads needs more practices made us bend off into smaller roads. Chiang Mai has a totally different face in this locale than in the Sois of the Older City. The feel is somehow almost rural, with smaller houses and some unfilled spaces. Two blond girls on bicycles are nothing ordinary here, as many reactions showed us. However, navigating without a proper map wasn´t the best idea. Our map had only road names for the big streets and the small lanes weren´t on the map at all. It was bound to happen – we were pretty lost. Later at home I figured out that we went in circles around our destination. 

We ended up in a small street, which had the name of the temple thinking it couldn´t be far and used the internet at the little coffee shop to figure out the way. I literally burst out laughing when the lovely shop owner showed the roof of the temple. We could have seen it the whole time, if we only had looked up. On the other hand, I got a lot of impressions from this ride I really don´t want to miss and which I can barely formulate. Maybe it´s not about finding the direct way, maybe it´s about getting lost and find something you didn´t expect. Something that surprises you and doesn't let you go. Even the hidden roads lead to the destination.

 The temple itself, Wat Ku Tao is definitely worth a visit. If not for simply an oasis in the city.We made our way from Wat Ku Tao with only a small indirection to Wat Jet Yot on the other side of the Super Highway. This temple cannot be more different from the Burmese influenced Wat Ku Tao than Wat Jet Yot. But
it´s an oasis, a place of peace and ease as well. This place makes you forget that Chiang Mai´s most important traffic artery is only a few hundred meters away. With its huge old trees and a lot of old chedis, the
place is somehow fey and impressed me deeply. Definitely my favorite temple so far.

Blog 5

I was thinking hard about what to write in this week´s blog. There hasn´t
been something extraordinary, I could tell. It has been a week as usual.
But maybe that’s the extraordinary thing: to say a week as usual. It
implicates, that there is actually something that approximates everyday
life in Thailand. Even though my Thai is still pretty poor – only some
basic words and sentences - I work on it. I manage somehow to get along.
It´s incredible how much you can understand contextually, especially if
you know the person you are talking to a bit better. However, it doesn’t
help you much when you are about to buy mosquito spray and want to know,
it´s whitening. Thai letters are still a mystery to me – somewhere in
between beautiful ornaments and Linear A.
But there is always someone around to help you and even if it´s with hand
and feet. Charades between shampoo and bug killer. Sometimes it´s life
writing the best stories of all.
The rain found us finally this week. Our local coordinator kept telling us
at the weekly family dinner, the monsoon comes next week. Every week was
hot and – beside some rain at night- dry. I´ll bet, there has been more
rain back home and it´s summer there. I automatically stated to wonder
where the rainy season got its name from. However, the rainy season should
be almost over, so were we told this week. The rain started the same
evening, rhythmic and constant, choking every other sound from outside. I
love rain. Listening to the rain with a good cup of tea has the same
effect on me like a warm fireplace in a frosty winter night. As a side
effect of this rain the days are cooler, which everyone appreciates very
much. To illustrate the temperature change, I was even wearing my dad´s
warm sweater till lunch time.
Well, what can I say, the rain didn´t last too long and now we are back to
32.8 °C in the house. Too bad.

Hope Home week 2 (Stacey Braun)

The daily routine. What comes to mind with that phrase? Likely some monotonous, mind-numbing sequence of events that you go through diurnally sprung into your mind. In reference to my life back at home, my daily routine as a student was defined by the following: wake up, get ready, eat breakfast, attend lecture, eat lunch, go to additional lectures or lab, eat supper, study, and finally go to bed. Black and white. It was this basic routine that structured my life. A skeleton.

As anybody who has a general knowledge of the human body will tell you, our skeleton is imperative to our functioning. So the same could be extrapolated about our daily routine - our daily skeleton. With that in mind, I would like to introduce my new skeleton for my day at Hope Home.

At 7:30  I get picked up from the volunteer residence by a red truck or songthaew. After an approximately 30 minute jaunt with some minor traffic and horn honking, I arrive at Hope Home. Upon arrival I am greeted with many "wai's" and "Sawasdeeka's" before getting briefly informed of the plans for the day.

Subsequently, from approximately 8:00-9:30 am it is relax time. Preceding my arrival, the nurses complete feeding breakfast and administering medication. Therefore, my arrival allows them some time to sit and recollect before moving on to the scheduled task. During this time with the children, I provide them with some company and laughter by chatting and playing little games.

Then from 9:30-11:45 am, the tasks become dependent on the day. Mondays are filled with hydrotherapy at Chiang Mai University pool. Normally, Tuesdays are booked at the special school. However, currently the school is on break. Wednesdays are infused with ARI Art Therapy. On Thursdays we travel to Chiang Mai University for physical therapy. Finally, on Fridays the weeks are closed out with a "free day". Each of the above activities provides a different therapy to the children and act to supplement their quality of life tremendously. Thus, in subsequent blogs on the following weeks I will focus on these treatments. What do you do? How do they work? What are the childrens' responses? I will try to address all of these questions.

Conversely, I regress back to my schedule. From 11:45 to 12:15 pm is lunch time. During this time I directly assist with feeding. Though some of the children can eat independently - not all of the children have this luxury. Then after all their bellies have been filled, it is nap time for the children and it is dishes time for me. The slick metal sink and soapy suds essentially wrap up my day as my songthaew arrives to pick me up at 1:00 pm.

If at this point you are thinking, some more pictures would have been nice... Yes, I know. However, I got permission to take photos of the children from Judy Cook to late. Next week I will!

Thanks for reading,