Nearly a year ago, LIGHT started a medical outreach to give pediatric support to a group of about 180 orphans and their families in a countryside village nearly 2 hours away. These kids are all “special needs”, which means they have underlying problems such as cerebral palsy, Down’s Syndrome, spina bifida, severe mental retardation and global developmental delay, or something else which requires extra care. These children are basically medically stable, but do need good follow up and consultations. The foster parents are paid a stipend from the government to care for the children and this is supposed to cover basic needs of the kids. Many homes care for two foster kids, and most of the foster parents have children who are either older and/or have moved away. They really do care for these children – some have been fostering children for five or six years now. While this foster care project is not a LIGHT project, I hope that this is something that we can replicate in other areas in the future.
The village now (completed this summer) has a foster care “center” where physical therapy sessions and school classes are held. This school is not necessarily special education, designed for children with mental retardation or learning disabilities, but it does allow children who have physical disabilities to attend primary school. If the kids make the cut later, they may be mainstreamed into the regular school system.
Our monthly trips involve 6-8 residents seeing the children, asking histories and doing physical exams. Nancy, a pediatric colleague, and I are the attendings, working with each resident individually while the others learn as they listen and observe. We meet in a care center that was completed this summer
After we worked through all the initial evaluations we are now doing follow up management of seizures, nutrition, rashes, and following up on on-going problems. The continuity is one of the major pluses of these trips as the residents can follow up on the children, map their progress, work through issues, and see resolution of problems.We do our best with these children, but like anything else with poor and marginalized populations, money is a big factor in how much we can do. But also like so many other situations, it doesn’t take a million bucks to make a big difference.
Another thing that I like about the trip is the time spent with the team in the van and at dinner together afterward. We are pretty cramped, but it does help us stay warm! Thought you’d like to see some of the latest pictures of our team (yes we are wearing winter coats inside) and the kids!