Today I went to Obras Sociales de Santo Hermano Pedro on my day off to check out another non-profit in Antigua. It is an association that takes care of people (babies up to the elderly) with mental and/or physcial disabilites. I was expecting to talk with men like I did at another association a few years ago that cares for men with disabilites, but found something completely different. I entered a beautiful yellow building with a beautiful garden and church, and then entered a room of 13 to 18 year-old kids in what seemed like cages. They were all huddled up in their individual cribs, disfigured, and unable to talk. They looked like they were 8 to 12 years old. Two of the about 20 kids were screaming at the top of their lungs as if someone was harming them. It was very sad. I tried to smile and be friendly, but it was very shocking. I asked what I could do to help and the kind nurses gave me a bunch of sweaters to put on the kids. They showed me how to bring down one side of the cagelike crib. Then I attempted to put a sweater on Eduardo, but his arms were folded rock hard to his chest and I could not open an arm to get it in the arm hole. I looked over at the nurse and she came and told me to go to the next patient while she put Eduardo’s sweater on. I had no idea if he was tensed up because of me, or if his arms were just stuck like that. When Blanca, the nurse, came over he relaxed his arms and she more easily put the sweater on. I felt so bad- his arms were so tight because he was scared of me. I more easily put the sweater on the next kid, but then watched the nurse to figure out the best technique. It made me appreciate putting the clothing on the hyperactive babies at the Hospicio. I thought it was difficult to diaper and dress a hyper baby, but it is nowhere near as difficult as it is to dress the children at Obras Sociales. The room- entitled Belen- was a very sad sight. I wanted to calm the children down, but I didn’t know how. I didn’t know how to touch them, or if I could touch them, or what to say. After putting the sweaters on, the nurse told me to chat with a girl who seemed to be upset. I came over and tried to talk but I ran out of things to say quickly and I don’t think I calmed her down at all. She kept trying to grab me and I wasn’t sure what that meant. Was she mad at me? Did she want a hug? Did she simply want to sit up? I had no idea they were not going to be able to speak at all and would be what seemed like terrified by me.
It is very nice that there is a place that will take care of these chidren and give them a life, but it appears to be not much of a life. They sedate the children twice a day to keep them from convulsing. I wonder how much the children can understand. If they can understand a lot, their lives must be torture.
I hope to go back another day to see what the lives are like for people in the other rooms with different abilites and to ask more questions.