Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Farewell (Stacey Braun)

Pick a city. Any city. Any one of the thousands of thriving metropolis' around the globe.

The roadways are blanketed in a chic coat of chrome cement or asphalt as black as night. The polychromatic signage forms an eclectic gallery along each avenue. And amongst all the radiating bulbs and the mod-podge of reverberations, your journey through the city almost always comes to an abrupt halt. A halt at a red light.

Throughout history, the colour red has carried multiple meanings. Red was noted as the hue of extremes. In fact, our prehistoric ancestors saw red as the colour of fire and blood - anger, fear and danger. As the centuries have past, as a species we have evolved from living in caves to driving automobiles and red became recognized as the international colour for stop.

A stop. By definition, a stand still; a termination; a hindrance; a roadblock. A pain-staking colour that signals us to come to a standstill. And though we like to see ourselves as "upgraded models" in comparison to our Neolithic predecessors, our interpretations of red, in this sense, is remarkably similar. For these modern red lights bound within their metallic casings catalyze feelings of frustration and rage within each of us.

However, we don't just encounter these negative red lights on the physical roadway. Instead, as a wise woman once pointed out  in the backseat of a truck, we encounter these unexpected stoppages in our personal lives as well. In fact, being immersed in a foster-care facility in Chiang Mai for children with disabilities has illustrated that exact fact to me each day, for the past 87 days.

Like a pedagogic documentary projecting onto a screen in front of me, my eyes have bore witness and my ears have absorbed through narration each child's different and unique red lights. Each of them has experienced the life roadblock of their disability. The roadblock of all the developmental delays. The roadblock of the health related ailments. The roadblock of the cloud of stigma that surrounds their everyday life in their native land.

Nonetheless, I have not just witnessed these life roadblocks through living beings under the age of ten. Alternatively, two exceptional women have also allowed me to take a peak into their metaphorical closets and absorb their skeletons of roadblocks faced. One has had to experience: the roadblock of moving long-term to a foreign country ripe after academia, and the roadblock of volunteering in a misunderstood field.

The other has had to experience: the roadblock of garnering and juggling funds to help an under serviced  sector, and the roadblock of making decisions invariably linked with the life of vulnerable children.

While cumulatively, both women have grappled with the ever-growing roadblock of holding onto themselves in an environment where it is so easy to lose oneself completely.

In the end, each and every one of us will face red lights; interruptions in our journey forward. But what all of these individuals' life hindrances has shown me is that it is not always about moving forward. Sometimes that extra time spent stopped is a gift - a treasure. Sometimes in that time, you will battle through treacherous rain and hail and your inner strength will grow. Sometimes in that time, you may find an unanticipated route that will change your perspective completely. Or sometimes in that time, you may just have an extra moment to stop, take a breath, and realize all the miles that you've put behind you and all the growth that has already occurred.

Overall - thank you Chiang Mai and Hope Home for all that you have entailed. Thank you, for my trip - my unexpected life stoppage, my red light - has taught me so much.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sawasdee Ka!

My name is Marie Eberwein and I`m from Germany. I`m 19 years old and I finished high school before I arrived in Thailand.Having  just arrived three weeks ago, but I already feel home. That isn`t difficult because Thai people are the most hearty and friendly people, I`ve ever met. Everybody smiles and you can only do the same.During Cultural Canvas Program, I`m the volunteer at FORRU. FORRU is an environment organization, which reforest the rain forest around Chiang Mai. That means that I spend a lot of time in forest. We collect seeds, tend this in the nursery, we execute germination experiments, monitor formerly planted sites and even more. I really enjoy working in  forest, because it`s kind of paradise.We also offer educational programs in order to prepare this I have to work in the office, too. Our office is in Chiang Mai University. Therefore most of FORRU staff are students and teachers.

Enough about my work I also had time off. And Chiang Mai is a city with  many sights. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep was only one of the impressing temples I visited, covered by incense sticks. I also went to many waterfalls. It`s so amazing to relax there, breathing in the fresh, cool air and chilling in clear water.

Starting from now I`ll keep you informed about my work and my free time each week.

Thanks for reading!


Monday, December 1, 2014

Cerebral Palsy & Blindness (Stacey Braun)

Visual impairments can result from problems with any part of the visual system, including the eyes, eye muscles, optic nerve or areas of the cerebral cortex that process visual information (Book et. al). Because cerebral palsy frequently affects the visual system, children with CP are more likely to have visual problems than are other children. In fact, according to a study conducted by Black, "up to 75% of children with CP are impaired".

One such of these specific impairments is labelled cortical visual impairment. Cortical  visual impairment or CVI results from injury to the brain's visual centres on the cerebral cortex (Book et. al). A child with CVI is thus able to pick up visual information with their eyes but the child's brain cannot process and interpret the information correctly. It is analogous to an imperfect computer chip which cannot fully process the input from the keyboard.

Generally speaking, the most common CVI symptoms presenting in children include an abnormal light responses, inconsistent visual responses to the same stimuli, and decreased responses to visual stimuli when auditory stimulation is present (Giord et. al). But the loss of vision does not only exhibit itself in symptoms directly related to the field.

When a child is blind they have lost one of their basic senses - they are under stimulated. Many of these children resort to other behaviours and forms of self stimulation to compensate for this under stimulation. These behaviours can include head banging, poking, rocking or staring at sources of light (Edelson). It has been reasoned that the head banging may even provide a form of pleasure related to movement titled kinaesthetic drive.

Though these behaviours can be a negative influence in many spheres, developmentally these behaviours are important for blind children as connections are made in the brain where the body is (Coots).

In fact, in the past two months I have witnessed the importance and predominance of these behaviors. In specific, one CVI-blind child at Hope Home fully engages in these actions, though there are two additional CVI children at the home.

However, though these children may seem lost in their world of behaviors that are difficult to comprehend - these children have NOT lost all of their senses: they still have viable feelings remaining. Most importantly, these remaining sensations need to be exercised to promote development. Presently, at Hope Home the developmental pursuits revolve around two core senses: sound and touch.

Stimulating the sense of sound is one experience that is constantly integrated into these children's lives. A variety of genres of music are being incessantly played on the stereo or sung. In addition, at times the children actively engage in creating their own music using instruments such as tambourines, bells, and drums. Therefore, not only to they to revel in the therapeutic auditory sensation but they also get to experience the tactile stimulation associated with banging ones hand against the firm surface of the percussion instrument.

Similar to the sense of sound, the sense of touch is almost effortlessly innervated into each of the three children's our times. In conjunction with the unintentional "touch" lessons, such as putting on clothes and feeding, toys such as a ball-pits and sensory boards provide opportunities to optimize each of these children's development.

Overall, though their condition has robbed their sight from them like a thief in the night - not all is lost. And this can be no more clearly than in this smile below.