March 2011 saw us working in Lima, Peru at Yancana Huasy, followed by a week in Arequipa working with Equip KIDS.
Over the two weeks of wheelchair clinics we saw over 100 children and youth fitted in wheelchairs appropriate for their needs. We left an additional 80 wheelchairs in Peru to be fit by our partners after we left. Our colleagues now complete wheelchair evaluations and fittings routinely for many recipients, saving only the most complex needs for consultation with our team.
This has been a year of expanding our focus on building capacity and sustainability in wheelchair services both in Peru and in the United States in key areas: student programs, manufacturing and education.
2012 will be the fifth year of our affiliation with St. Catherine University. The program continues to thrive, and we are told that this learning opportunity for occupational therapy students draws applicants to the St. Kate’s program. We are formalizing a more organized approach to integrating Peruvian OT students into our Lima wheelchair clinics, through collaboration between Eleanore’s Project, St. Catherine University and San Marcos University in Lima. Through these efforts we are proud to be training a new generation of therapists in the United States and Peru, preparing them to provide high quality care for wheelchair users.
“I now understand the special skill set and knowledge base to properly fit wheelchairs for people.”
— Molly Wadsworth, St. Catherine University student
A long-term goal of Eleanore’s Project is to empower our partners in Peru to make and maintain their own equipment. Thanks to a generous donor, and the inspiration of long-time volunteer Sammie Wakefield, we commissioned a small manufacturing project through the Yancana Huasy workshops. This coming March, a supply of various wheelchair components such as seat belts, trays and other items that are often scarce but needed in our clinics will be ready for use.
In the past, we have relied solely on equipment that was shipped to Peru from the United States. Our new approach provides employment at a fair wage for persons with disabilities and their families, and supports the Peruvian economy by sourcing the materials locally. The local fabrication of seating components is another step toward our dream and that of Yancana Huasy, to see wheelchair manufacturing become part of their enterprise.
The First International Symposium on Seating and Posture occurred in August in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Eleanore’s Project was proud to sponsor a participant. Chris Ventura, occupational therapist at Yancana Huasy, attended the conference, which drew presenters from Europe and the United States. Attending this event gave Chris the opportunity to learn about wheelchair seating and mobility from a variety of sources beyond Eleanore’s Project. She has already begun integrating her new knowledge.
“The most important thing is that I will share what I learned with the entire team of professionals who work with me to improve the quality of life for our patients at Yancana Huasy.”
— Chris Ventura, occupational therapist
Breaking new ground
Finally, we are venturing into a new part of Peru for our second week of wheelchair clinics in March 2012. Puerto Maldonado is located in the jungle close to the Peruvian border with Brazil and Bolivia. A new highway now makes it possible to transport goods (such as wheelchairs) into this area more easily.
A local Lions Club and several professionals are eager to develop wheelchair services, and
sought out our partners Equip KIDS to request help. Equip KIDS representatives have already traveled there to assess needs, provide training and take measurements and photos of wheelchair recipients. While there, Eleanore’s Project will assist with a workshop for local professionals to develop their wheelchair provision skills. We are excited to be part of setting high standards for wheelchair provision in an area without any wheelchair mobility resources.