Tag Archives: Children with special needs

OT in Malawi

Occupational therapy isn’t about finding people jobs, but about helping people participate in anything that is meaningful to them. It fits into a variety of settings and looks different from place to place and person to person.
Malawi isn’t the “Africa” picture often painted in the West full of poor people living in huts. Yes there is great poverty, but there is also great wealth. There are homes that are huts and those that are accompanied by guest houses for visitors. Malawi is a diverse country where life looks different from place to place and person to person.
With such a variety within OT and Malawi, the mix—OT in Malawi—is just as much of a diverse experience. I can’t cover it all or really even come close but I can attest to the pieces I have seen.

It’s in a pediatric private practice where kids are treated in a clinic, as well as in private and public schools.

It’s in a government hospital and an inpatient rehabilitation center.

It’s financed by the profit of the organization, by the government, and by outside sources of aide.

It’s working alongside physiotherapists, speech therapists, learning support and rehabilitation technicians.

It’s an OT volunteering time in a village on a day off and another whose job is
building capacity for long term development.

It’s in a group of children who aren’t able to go to school, gathering for “their school.”

It’s in a group of men gathered to practice using their affected arms post-stroke.

It’s in a hospital where the needs are far more than the resources, but nevertheless needs are being met.

It’s one on one sessions in the clinic, one on 20 in a school, and one on many more in the hospital.

It’s provided to children with autism, down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and ADHD.

It’s games rigged for a win to build self-esteem and those rigged to be lost to practice social skills.

It’s chalk on the trampoline, paint on the wall, and handwriting in play-doh.

It’s vocational training to someone with a disability to give them an occupation and a livelihood.

It’s songs and games and crafts targeting joint engagement, auditory memory, attention, fine motor skills, and social participation.

It’s a pretend “lion hunt” through a jungle of tunnels and ball pits, and it’s parent education to provide strategies for home.

It’s adaptive equipment given to a mother who has walked two hours for a short treatment session.

It’s handwriting practice and a game of UNO played with a child dropped off by their driver.

It’s a group of therapists determined to develop the profession within the country, to start a program, and to meet the needs of the people.

It’s 9 therapists, both Malawians and expatriates, to 1.5 million people.

It’s a resilient profession that is growing and developing to help Malawians be all that they can and live the most meaningful lives possible.

It’s all of this and more. And it’s been a pleasure to be a part of it.

One need was met

Often when working with people with disabilities, you work and work and slowly see progress. Change is not usually instantaneous. But today it was. And today I was reminded of the extreme power of occupation to radically change lives.

Today we went to a village with DIDP, a volunteer organization run by one director of Sandi on the weekends, where we saw clients from the area. I share with you one story among many:

After walking probably two hours to see us, a mom entered and laid her six year old daughter on the mats in front of us—a precious little girl with cerebral palsy that neither engaged nor participated in daily life. She spent her days laying on the ground outside their house fully dependent on others. Initially we were concerned not only about contracture and atrophy of muscles, but also cognitive involvement based on her lack of interaction with us. However, we grabbed a corner chair to try to improve positioning and we were blown away. Immediately we were taken back by the core strength she exhibited and delighted by the bright eyes and smile that now lit up both her and her mother’s face. She began to engage with us and as we added the lap tray and placed toys, we were easily able to engage her in purposeful activities, joint engagement, modeling, and pretend play! When we gave her a spoon she began to pretend to feed herself. Her mother had never even seen her really use her hands let alone do so purposefully.


That chair offered hope. It offered a whole new identity to a child whose life had previously been riding on her mother’s back or staring at the sky. She no longer has a poor forecast of a future, but can engage with peers and participate in daily life, learning from those around her. We gave her the chair and drove her home at the end of the day.

Today the gift of a chair costing not even fifteen US dollars completely changed the world of a little girl in a village in Malawi. It won’t always be so simple or so radical a change, but in the rural areas where the needs are great and the care is distant, simple things have significant impact. There are lots of kids like this little girl—lots that would benefit from chairs or equipment. Lots that have needs that continue to go unmet and potential unreached. But today, one need was met that changed many lives.

Heroes in Hiding

ImageLast weekend I flew back to AR to join my mom in putting on the 2nd Annual Building Bridges Pediatric Family Fun Day following the inaugural Forts and Fairytales last year.

Based on the heroic characteristics of so many parents of children with special needs that go unseen, we themed the day “Heroes in Hiding.”

Parents were refreshed and encouraged.

Volunteers were envisioned.

Siblings were celebrated.

Everyone walked away a hero.

From hero training to creative play, cupcakes, a concert, a lot of silly string, and duct taping a few volunteer ‘villains’ to a tree, everyone had a blast!

Image ImageImage

I am so excited to see this day continue to encourage, equip, celebrate, and refresh the families served!

Start with one.

One of my last assignments for the semester is to write a paper, give a presentation, and create a brochure of my ideal practice.

My ideal practice.







developing countries

My mind races from idea to idea as I think of the 143 million orphans worldwide—and wonder at the number of those with disabilities… isn’t there a way to treat every child? To equip every caretaker? To impact every nation? To set every child in a family?

My heart breaks not at the 143 million (though it should), but over the ones and twos—the ones whose stories I know, whose smiles are captured above my desk, whose lives have so impacted mine. I want to fight for the ones. Because each one matters. All the hundreds, thousands, millions of them.

But I am just one.

So I remember a story my Mexican dad shared with me when I came across this starfish…

A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.

She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”

The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied,

 “Well, I made a difference to that one!”

–       adapted from the Star Thrower by Loren C. Eiseley

So I shall start with one.

And if you start with one too then that’s double already.

After all, a kingdom is not built in a day.

(and lets be honest, I’d really prefer to start with at least a dozen or so…)

God loves me a child with disabilities.

I have spent the last week in Raleigh, NC with Elevate building relationships, sharing the gospel, and connecting students with the church. It was a beautiful week as we walked in favor and saw lives transformed before our eyes. I could tell dozens of stories about salvation, healing, and community, but my heart resides in a single one of God’s perfect pure love for me.

He knows me so well.

And He loves me so perfectly.

Friday night a group of us were at the mall eating dinner and sharing the gospel. Sitting in the food court I looked up to see a young hispanic boy in a wheelchair not far from us. My heart was stolen.

I went over and began talking to the young man, named P. Sharing with his mom of my love for children like him with disabilities and the significance and value of these children in the eyes of the Lord, I had an open door. She committed her life to Jesus.

The whole time, we were feeding P as he hit us and rocked in his chair. But as I looked him in the eyes and told him of Jesus’ love for him and the great purpose He has for his life, P was filled with joy and began to laugh.

His mom’s face brightened at his response and I explained that it was the Holy Spirit… and he understands. He may not walk or talk or make many purposeful actions, but the power of the Holy Spirit allows him to understand.

Pulling a Gabriel House picture out of my wallet I shared testimonies of the power of the Holy Spirit in the kids’ lives as I watched a fresh revelation of the significance of her son fill her heart and mind.


However, as I walked away excited, all I could think was my God really really knows and loves me. In a season where children with disabilities are almost absent from my life, there was P and his mom. God loves me a lot. He loves me a child with disabilities.

Thank you Lord.

Send a kid to school for the 1st time.


Thats the best way for me to put it. For the last couple years we have prayed and prayed for the chance for some of our kids to go to school, and to learn. The education system isn’t the same in Mexico, and so most children with special needs are left without an education despite their enormous potentials.

God has heard us and answered. We have asked and it is being given. We have sought and we have found. We have knocked and the door is being opened.

Nene, Pilar, Ruben, and Sergio have the opportunity to go to a special school in Ensenada!!! They are going to school.

If you have followed along for a while, you may remember stories of these kids and probably joined and interceding for a school setting for them. Rejoice with us.

In order for this to really happen though, they need sponsors to join them and send them to school. Tuition is $120/year for all 4 and Uniforms will be aroun $300. There may be some additional needs as well to cover Dr.’s appts to attend.

Would you be willing to join them? Would you be willing to send a kid to school for the first time in their lives? And to forever change their lives?

You can donate here at Mex Med’s website or mail a check to the address below. Please be sure to indicate GH-school fees/uniforms.

Mexican Medical Ministries 7850 Lester Ave. Lemon Grove, CA 91945

Mollie in China

As exciting and wonderful as it is to go, I just love being able to send others out. My friend Mollie, who I went to China with in June will soon be returning to Shepherd’s Field for 3 months. It has been so fun to watch the Lord lead her to return over the last months and now I can hardly wait to hear all that He does in and through her in her time there. When I found out for sure, it took all of me to not burst with joy in the coffee shop where I was reading.


Mollie is such a mission-minded woman of God with a passionate tender heart for orphans with disabilities. She is a blessing to walk and dream with and her trip is definitely one worth following and investing in prayerfully. I encourage you to keep up with One Redhead’s Journey as she loves on and lives with the kids at Shepherd’s Field.