Monday, May 14, 2012

Closing Time

The semester is over! It doesn't seem possible that four months have flown by in the blink of an eye. We spent Friday at the director Ann's house and had all day to hang out with CGE staff and friends. It was a fun, relaxing - and slightly emotional - end to the semester. We had our closing ceremonies, ate incredible Mexican barbeque complete with nopales (grilled cactus), grilled chicken and beef, guacamole, rice, beans and even tres leches cake! Then we got to swim in the pool, the students worked on their last minute tans, and we got to hang out together as a group for the last time. 

To say that these students will be missed is a complete understatement. After living and eating and working and hanging out with them for four months, they have become some of my dearest friends. Here are some hilghlights from the semester:

Group pyramid - why not?
At the UNAM in Mexico City
Hanging out in Mexico City

Students with host-families in Amatlán

Students at an Ameríca soccer game in Mexico City
Parasailing in the beach town of Zihuatenejo
Riding the rails in the Mexico City subway

Students and host-mom at the Nevado de Toluca covered in snow!
Stephanie at Teotihuacan - ancient pyramids

Showing off their new wool purchases in the cold town of Toluca

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ministerios de Amor

As I write this, I am looking out at the house full of children who I have bonded and lived with for the past two months and who I unfortunately need to say goodbye to tomorrow.  It is my last night here in the house and although I always have been aware of how my goodbye may affect the children at the house, I have little thought of how it will affect me.  During my entire stay, any of my preoccupations have mainly been focused on the children: “Is he really grasping what I am trying to communicate to him?” “Can this self-esteem activity even make a difference with this kid?” “I wonder if she feels safe with someone in the house.” “How will the kids react to my short time here with them?”

I realize the grand importance and necessity of closure of the relationship that I have experienced with the children, especially considering their past experiences of abandonment; I have replayed and rehearsed how I will say goodbye to the children at least one hundred times, but I have yet to set time apart to think about how I will process the end of my relationship with my clients.  I have experienced many goodbyes in my life, but nothing like this. 
I feel as if there is no way for me to emotionally prepare myself for goodbye rather than look forward to how I can use the valuable experience I had here with the Tias and children in the future.  Here at the orphanage I had the unique opportunity to work outside of my own language and culture, and that in itself was extremely empowering and affirmed my desire to work with the Latino population when I return to the United States.  Although I unfortunately need to say goodbye to and physically separate from people I have come to love tomorrow, in a way I will bring them with me in my future work.  I look forward to see how they will help guide my work and continue to inspire me to serve populations in need. 

Written by Nichole Hulstein

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Interning at Con Nosotros

I have had tons of interesting adventures in Mexico, but none have been as inspirational as my Internship. As a social work student I am required to hold a social work related internship during my semester in Mexico. I am interning with Con Nosotros (meaning “with us” in Spanish).  Con Nosotros is a nonprofit school for children with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term that describes various motor-neurological symptoms that result from a brain injury inflicted during pregnancy, birth, or the first 1-3 years of life. Cerebral palsy varies from mild in that it may only cause a child to be slightly uncoordinated to severe in that a child can’t walk, or even talk. Cerebral palsy is not a defect with the muscular system; instead the brain struggles to send the neuron signals to the muscles to tell them to move. The cool thing about cerebral palsy is that with physical training, especially at a young age the brain can be trained to send neuron signals out faster and coordination can be increased. This is where Con Nosotros comes in. 

Con Nosotros uses a school of thought called conductive education. Conductive education originated in Hungary and is different from physical therapy in that it “educates” people that have Cerebral Palsy on how to be more independent. So instead of performing exercises to become more mobile, these children are taught to use this mobility to do things like brush their own teeth, get dressed, or use a phone.

Con Nosotros was started by four Mexican parents that have children with cerebral palsy and wanted an educational option for their children. In conversations I have had with my supervisor Itzel I have learned that there is no place for children with disabilities in the public school system simply because the resources are not available. Con Nosotros is the only school of its kind in Mexico, and one of few options for children that have any sort of special need in the country. I have had the pleasure of working with an incredible organization that strives to improve the lives of people with cerebral palsy while trying to change the thought process of society in regards to disability. 

-By Grace McLagan