Saturday, December 03, 2011

The Time Has Arrived

Every year since 1978 (with the exception of election years) the first week of December holds an event that transfixes Chileans throughout the entire country and around the world. Through a 27-hour live transmission, funding is raised to support the rehabilitation centers of the Fundacion Teleton. These centers provide excellent care to children with developmental disabilities in ten Chilean cities, with four additional centers currently under construction.

Iquique center of the Teleton

As I have mentioned in many posts, the Iquique center of the Teleton has been a great blessing to our family during the past 2 1/2 years as our daughter Isabel has been a patient there. Although currently Isabel attends only for pool therapy, she has in the past received occupational therapy, speech therapy, hippotherapy, and physical therapy.

Most recently, Isabel was invited to participate in a special opportunity to play violin with the newly-formed Teleton orchestra in Iquique. She has stayed very busy the past couple of weeks leading to this weekend's campaign, as her orchestra played in the main plaza downtown as well as in a historic museum. Saturday they will play once again at the closing festivities for the campaign held at our branch of the Teleton.

But she hasn't stopped there. When I suggested that perhaps her class could raise funds to contribute to this year's campaign, she jumped at the chance to promote this and happily took in our homemade jar to be filled by her classmates. She even promised them her mom's homemade American brownies once it was filled! Sure enough, the cash began to pour in and the kids even took the initiative to carry their jar out to parents at the close of the school day to request donations. :)

Isabel's teacher, Profesora Tania, was receptive to the idea of taking the kids to the Teleton center for a field trip so they could better understand what this was all about. As she is the head teacher for both Isabel's class and Owen's, I had the chance to be a parent chaperone for two of my kids last week. There was a moment of panic when we arrived at the door and realization hit that both the teacher and I thought the other had confirmed the date of our visit, but neither of us had! Thankfully because Isabel is well known and loved, we were allowed to slip in nonetheless and it was a great visit.

Owen's class (1st grade)

I can't say enough about how warm and welcoming the therapists are with their patients. One in particular, Tia Loreto, has worked with Isabel since she arrived in April 2009. She has been to our home and even came to witness Isabel's baptism earlier this year. She has a heart of gold for her patients and makes each one feel special.

Isabel's class (3rd grade)

The topic of the Teleton has been a delicate and often emotional one for Isabel this year. Each Tuesday she leaves school half an hour early for pool therapy, and this often translates into comments and questions from her peers. I was reminded even during our visit to the center that politically correct terminology hasn't quite arrived in Chile just yet, as I heard terms such as "different" and "discapacitated" rather than "special" or "special needs." Perhaps as a result of this Isabel has struggled with mixed emotions about being a patient there. She loves the therapists, appreciates their kindness, and even talks of becoming a therapist herself ... but she is often sad and uncomfortable with being considered different from her peers.

She was so excited about this field trip but when we arrived back at school and it was just the two of us talking with her teacher, she dissolved into tears. My heart fell and I was sure she had been hurt rather than helped by the experience. It wasn't until after school that she explained to me, "I felt so happy that they (her classmates) got to see it ... I don't know why I cried!"

I love our precious, special and unique girl.


Marsha said...

Thank you for sharing Isabel's story. It doesn't seem possible that she is so grown up.

Marsha said...

Thank you for sharing Isabel's story. It seems so long ago that you guys were here and the girls played with stickers after we had dinner. Looking forward to seeing you in the spring.

panim said...

That's my sweet sis. Love her!!!