(Austria) - Physical Therapist
October 5, 2011 - Honduras
Once upon a time…
I came to Honduras just after graduating from university, suddenly with a bachelor-title in front of my name, but without any real knowledge about Spanish or living in a 3rd world country. I tried to not have any expectations, but as you can imagine, I had a lot of question marks in my head: How would work be? The other volunteers? Will the weather really be super hot? Will we really just eat rice and beans for 13 months? Will I understand what the kids ask me?
Caro with sisters, Eda and Gaby
“Y cuando me toca a mi?” The children are always asking when it is their turn to come to physical therapy. The chance to get to sneak into the big physical therapy room with swings, slides and toys, as well as a little extra personal time, makes it worth it for the kids to knock on my door again and again, or to stop me in the hallway. It’s been more than 9 months now since I got off the plane and headed to Rancho Santa Fe, the NPH home in Honduras. I still do not know all of the names of the 500 kids who live here, but a lot of them have left footprints on my heart and continue to do so, every minute.
If I’d have to pick a title for the first few weeks of being a volunteer here, I’d name it “AMAZEMENT.” Laughing kids and crying ones, cockroaches in the bathroom, preparing for working as a therapist, beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner, power blackouts, language barriers, sad stories, strong kids – and that’s only a few bits and pieces of that first chapter.
The second chapter is “WORK.” After the phase of simply being amazed, I quickly had to adapt to my working routine. In daytime I work as a physical therapist with a diverse mixture of patients, from babies to grandparents. I care for neurological problems, such as cerebral palsy, hemiplegia, autism, developmental delays, and also orthopedic ones like broken, but healing bones. In the evenings I deal with broken hearts, but also with really happy ones. Every volunteer goes to a kids’ home, “hogar” at night, to spend quality time with the children, share laughs and hugs, and help out the caregivers. My hogar is Casa Suyapa, the home for the littlest inhabitants of the ranch, from newborns through 10-year-olds.
A few months ago, I moved to the next chapter: “ENJOYMENT.” It’s not less work, but the unhurried way of life has rubbed off on me. My volunteer role here has changed from work to just life. I feel confident in my work, the Spanish has become a lot easier to speak and understand, I have gotten to know a few habits of the Honduran culture, accustomed to the power blackouts, and also a tiny little bit to cockroaches. I feel at home with my kids, and they are a great way to recharge my batteries. Even though I still do not understand every word of what my little girls tell me, I really take them to heart. When I am with them, I help settle disputes, get them all into the shower, and dry tears. Sometimes we are sad, more often though we are doubling over with laughter. But my favorite time is the last minutes before they finally fall asleep. I snuggle my girls in their covers, we share hugs and cuddle, we talk about the happenings of the day and we fantasize about what we are going to dream that night.
And she lived differently ever after…
So far, I have learned many things, most of all: to appreciate having a family and good friends, a safe and loving environment, having a place to call home, and not having to fear having no food for the next day. I learned that one should never lose trust in others, and that we can never show and tell our loved ones often enough how much we love them. I have new experiences every day, find new friends and have gained 500 new brothers and sisters.
I do not know which chapters are yet to come – only time will show. At this moment I’m just happy enough enjoying every single minute of my stay.