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Mar 31, 2020

“Adopt A Child with Disability”

There’s a small non-governmental organization that is making a difference in the lives of children living with a disability.  “Adopt a Child with Disability” is a non-profit operating out of Belmopan and San Ignacio. The programme provides children with a range of therapy services—from physical therapy to occupational therapy, all at a fraction of the cost. Reporter Andrea Polanco has been working on a longer form piece about this non-profit, but tonight we share a portion of our visit to their Belmopan clinic. Here’s the story.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Baby Casianna Castillo and her mom Sandra Garcia have been attending physical therapy sessions through the Adopt A Child With Disability non-profit in Belmopan. At the time of this interview Cassiana was three months old – and she started doing therapy about a week or so after she was born.  Cassiana was a breeched baby.


Sandra Garcia

Sandra Garcia, Mother of Cassiana Castillo

“I didn’t know that they just pulled her out by one hand by her shoulder so until a couple minutes after that I saw her and held her I said oh but she is only moving one hand.  The pediatrician reach and then I tell she that the baby lone the cry and she nuh move her hand. Her hand was like ‘limba’ and so she come a look on her and move her hand and said that this baby need therapy. So she told me that she needed therapy. It’s her muscles she said.”


Hearing that a new born bay needs therapy to be able to use one of her limbs can be little scary and even stressful. But for Cassiana and her mom, the weekly pediatric physical therapy with the Adopt A Child With Disability programme has made a world of difference.


Sandra Garcia

“The laser is from way up here from her neck go down. I notice it helps a lot because when I first bring ah she couldn’t move her hand none at all. So I got worried and wonder if she would have ever moved her hand but now she done the lift up and she slightly has that bend in her hand but still yet in the wrist she still has it downwards this way but it has just been three months since we have been doing this.”


Andrea Polanco

“Do you believe that if you didn’t get this kind of help for her at an early age, that she would grow up with a disability?”


Sandra Garcia

“Yes! Definitely. Definitely. They told me that if I neva mi bring she then her hand would get use to being that straight way without moving it.   It help a lot. They tell me maybe her hand mi wah move but then they told me that her nerves are ruptured so she mi deh really bad because she was in pain whenever you move her hand or change her clothes.”


And that is why for the past three years, the Adopt a Child with Disability non-profit has been helping children with disabilities, from newborns to age thirteen. The organization offers early intervention therapy to try to improve the children’s physical ability to function. Physical Therapist Juan Collado is the founder.


Juan Pablo Collado

Juan Pablo Collado, Founder, Adopt A Child with Disability

“Most of the children that we treat have neurological disabilities. Some sort of cerebral palsy; children with down –syndrome and others with specific diagnosis that is more complex. We have children who are normal neurologically but perhaps suffered injuries, perhaps amputations, fractures and many other physical limitations that they may suffer due to accidents or trauma.   We would use different techniques; Bobat; specifically neural development techniques to stimulate the child to develop to the next phase that he is supposed to. Some children are capable of improving to the point that they can be functional that they can integrate into society and be productive citizens. For example, putting groceries in a bag and be independent eventually. Some kids have very significant limitations that we can do is only improve their quality of life.”


Like two-year-old Destiny Tesecum. She was born with a severe type of spina bifida, where she is unable to walk. She has been enrolled in the physical therapy programme for about a year. The affordable cost and the central location help to ease the burden on her parents.


Luis Tesecum

Luis Tesecum, Father of Destiny Tesecum

“Destiny is not able to walk but she can sit upright by herself and she can creep by herself. The only problem is that her feet are a bit limber. So, the reason why we come so that they can provide the service for us and do the therapy to strengthen her feet and I still have a lot of hope that one day she will walk.  She had three emergency surgeries at birth and was told that she was not going to make it. But here she is now – two years and change. I have been coming to this institution for almost a year and I have seen major improvement in her foot. The service and the affordability help us a lot. We don’t have to travel to Belize City a lot and we can come direct to this location. I am a couple miles away from this institution and so I don’t have a problem coming to the institution once a week or whenever I cannot make it due to her condition when the weather changes and I inform them that I cannot make it and they do the changes for us.”


But not many parents who have a child with disability will seek this kind of help. Collado says that while there has been made progress made when it comes to disability services offered in Belize, the issues of disability, shame and stigma are still prevalent. And he hopes that by hosting these sessions that it will help to encourage parents to get help for their children.


Juan Pablo Collado

“The culture is very limited in education towards disability. Many parents in rural areas think that this is a curse to their families. They are ashamed of their kids. They don’t know that this is something that can affect everybody. There are hundreds of children who are in need and have no type of access to this kind of service. We have been treating over thirty children who come to our clinic two to three times a week and we have seen significant improvement in these kids.  We take out the kids so that people are aware of what is going; that disability in our children is something that we have to embrace and to approach it in a proactive way. And this is what Adopt A Child With Disability is doing – to integrate them socially and eliminate the taboo that children with a disability is a curse or is possessed.”


This non-profit started out offering free cost therapy for children in need. But a demand for the service has put a strain on the non-profit’s resources. They now rely on grants to subsidize the cost of maintaining the service. Each parent, where possible, pays a small fee between five and ten dollars to help sustain this much needed work for these young children.


Juan Pablo Collado

“On our part, for now, we are focusing on their physical abilities and hopefully we can create a difference and these children later can be a testimonies so that this is a movement and service is needed and hopefully we can continue to grow and improving the quality of life for children with disabilities in Belize.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.


If you want to find out more about this non-profit or want to help them make a difference, you can look for “Adopt a Child with Disability” on Facebook.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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