Molly Wadsworth is a graduate student in the St. Catherine University occupational therapy program. She and three classmates joined our 2011 team of volunteer therapists and technicians.
The opportunity to work with Eleanore’s Project in Peru was, to put it simply, life changing. The children and their families each had a unique and telling story that truly touched my heart. Even after returning to the daily grind of my life back home, I can still envision the faces of the people we worked with and the smiles that will stay permanently etched in my heart.
As an occupational therapy student, I was blown away by the transformation I observed as the wheelchairs were customized, one by one, to fit each individual child. On this trip, I developed a new appreciation for wheelchair seating and mobility. I now understand the special skill set and knowledge base required to properly fit wheelchairs for people. For some of the children, proper positioning allowed them to self propel their wheelchair, thus independently moving for the first time. For others, positioning their hips and stabilizing their trunks in the wheelchair gave these children the support they needed to move their head and arms independently.
These results did not instantly occur the moment these children were put in their wheelchairs for the first time. It took the critical thinking, clinical reasoning, and mechanical talent of the occupational therapist to achieve the desired outcome. With the help of the Eleanore’s Project team and the Peruvian students and professions, over 100 children received customized wheelchairs during our two-week stay. The work continued after we left as our Peruvian partners fitted more children for wheelchairs and they will continue to provide assistance to the families we served.
It has been a few weeks since I arrived home to Minneapolis and as I reflect on my experience in Peru I have come to a conclusion. The impact of Eleanore’s Project is so much greater than what is accomplished during our stay. Almost like a fire, the knowledge and education provided continues to spread both here in the United States and in Peru. It may be a brush fire now, but I envision it spreading like wild fire in the future. May the support for Eleanore’s Project continue for years and years so that the 100 children helped over the two weeks this year turns in to hundreds which turns into thousands in the years to come