By Jean Armas, Global Strategies Program Coordinator and Mary Le, Global Strategies Volunteer
Children born early or with complications in low resource settings around the world often have to face the consequences of less than ideal birth outcomes – living with a disability.
A few weeks ago we traveled with Dr Mitul Kapadia, a pediatric rehabilitation doctor at UCSF, to Sargur, India to visit our pediatric rehabilitation program at Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM). Dr Kapadia, along with a dedicated group of occupational and physical therapy volunteers, worked together with SVYM to start the pediatric rehabilitation program in 2012 after recognizing that children with disabilities in the community needed support to help them reach their full potential.
In rural settings such as Sargur, children living with disabilities and their caregivers face an overwhelming number of challenges including stigma, misinformation on the causes and therapies available for persons with disabilities, and lack of resources. When the program was introduced, parents had yet to fully realize the possibilities that pediatric rehabilitation could have on their children’s lives. Five years later, these children and their caregivers have seen significant positive changes and an improvement in the ability of their children to fully participate in all aspects of family and community life.
We had the opportunity to meet and talk to many of the children’s caregivers in the program during our visit. One word that echoed throughout the week was hope. Pediatric rehabilitation gave parents and children alike hope. Children who could not previously walk were now able to do so, children who could not hold their heads up now could look up to their mothers, and children who could not eat on their own could now feed themselves. Caregivers began to share their experiences with other community members. As word caught on about the successes of the pediatric rehabilitation program, other caregivers of children with disabilities sought out the program. The program now sees over 150 patients on a regular basis and this number continues to grow every month. We are proud to support the work of SVYM as they strive to provide inclusive health care for all.