Karin Leitner from Upper Austria and Johanna Böhm from Lower Austria have been working as therapists in the NPH Children’s Village in Honduras since January 2016. The 25-year-old Karin from St. Veit im Mühlkreis works as a physiotherapist, the 24-year-old Johanna from Wolfpassing as an occupational therapist, and in an interview they give an insight into their daily work in the children’s village.
You’ve studied physiotherapy and occupational therapy and are now volunteering at NPH Honduras for more than a year. What motivates you?
Karin: Many of my patients radiate an immense joy of life. They are happy about affection and attention. Although it is often exhausting, it encourages me a lot in my work. Here I can bring my expertise to another part of the world and help others. And because I like it so much here, I have extended my stay and will stay until July 2017.
Johanna: The best thing about my work here with disabled people is the relationship we build with each other. Each of the children and each of the adults has their own peculiarities that make them lovable and often make me laugh.
Why are therapeutic offers so important for disabled children?
Karin: Unfortunately, disabled children often don’t get much individual attention – but they need it especially. Normally developed children learn everything they need from an early age through social interaction, through trial and error and through attending kindergarten and school. Much of it is missing for disabled children. It is important to find out what a child needs and how much it can achieve despite its disability.
Johanna: Occupational therapy always has the goal that the children become as independent as possible in everyday life. This can mean, for example, being able to eat alone or with little support, or helping with dressing. For me it is important that disabled children get the feeling that they can do things independently during therapy.
Karin (left) and Johanna (right) help children with physiotherapy and occupational therapy in Honduras. NPH
Now you’ve been in the children’s village for almost a year. How does your daily work look like?
Karin: I work at NPH as a physiotherapist in various areas: at school or in homes with disabled children, at Casa Eva, the home for the elderly, and at the NPH-related surgery center. In the evenings we always spend time with a group of children, helping with meals, showers, homework, cleaning and bedding.
Johanna: As an occupational therapist, I take care of children with developmental delays, among other things. Once a week, Karin and I go to the capital Tegucigalpa to “Casa Ángeles”, our NPH home for severely disabled people between the ages of four and 29. Most people at Casa Ángeles cannot move, speak or eat on their own.
Karin from Upper Austria works as a physiotherapist with handicapped children. NPH
Has anything particularly moved you so far?
Karin: Yes, the past of many children, especially family stories that are often marked by violence, neglect and abuse. All the more moving are the joy and gratitude that these children often radiate, as well as their ability to accept their past, but to live in the moment.
Johanna: I remember an evening when one of my girls cried in bed. She told me about her time before NPH and how much she missed her late mother. It showed me incredibly close what some of our children had to experience and how strong they were. Everyday life makes me forget this surprisingly often.
What is the situation of people with disabilities in Honduras?
Karin: One problem is that women are often not informed about risk factors during pregnancy. Children with physical and mental disabilities are often victims of bullying and exclusion. In rural areas, disability is often still (!) seen as a punishment or trial of God. Medical and therapeutic care is very poor, as is the infrastructure. The majority of people can hardly or not afford necessary medicines or treatments.
Johanna: In terms of construction or infrastructure, the situation is a disaster for wheelchair users or visually impaired people, for example, both in Tegucigalpa and in the countryside. Of course, there are organisations that work for disabled people and institutions such as schools for disabled children. However, the offer is certainly not as large as in Austria. Many people cannot afford it, live too far away or know nothing about the offer. Compared to Honduras, we in Austria are really very happy about our health and social care.
Johanna from Lower Austria supports disabled children with ergotherapy. NPH
What about the NPH Children’s Village?
Karin: The majority of our children with disabilities attend school in the mornings, where they are taught as much as possible. My impression is that NPH perceives disability as much more “normal” than in Austria. In the children’s village all children grow up together, they meet each other with curiosity and helpfulness. Accessibility exists in the Children’s Village, but of course there is still room for improvement.
Johanna: The Children’s Village tries to include disabled children and adults as much as possible in everyday life – through medical care, therapy or employment and promotion opportunities in the Children’s Village and in the “Casa Ángeles”. The majority take part in activities and, depending on their abilities, work in the laundry or other areas. I think it’s great that nobody here is shy of contact. Everyone is used to us being a big family in which everyone is equal.
About NPH Austria:
The international children’s charity NPH (Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos) cares for orphans and children in need in nine Latin American countries. Since its foundation in 1954, more than 18,000 children have grown up in NPH Children’s Villages, and donations and sponsorships ensure their care and education. NPH Austria has been awarded the Austrian Seal of Approval for Donations, and donations are tax-deductible.
Donation account: First bank, IBAN: AT85 2011 1822 4309 5500, BIC: GIBAATWWXXX Online donations shop: www.nph.at/spendenshop
Further inquiry note:
Carina Kirisits, MSc, BSc, BA | Communications & Sponsorship Manager NPH Austria – Help for Orphans Zollergasse 37/5 | 1070 Vienna Phone: +43 1 526 0220-17 [email protected] | www.nph.at