What this is all about

Being a December graduate, I have decided to keep an open schedule and mind.  I have no definite plans for at least 5 months, and even then, nothing is certain.  This is all very new for me--I've always had a set plan of what I'm doing next.  Now, although I know the general direction I am heading, I am allowing opportunities to come to me that might have otherwise been lost if I had already made plans.
Join me for the ride as I begin to Learn By Living!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Discapacitados en Guatemala

My language school is a cooperative. Many language schools in countries like Guatemala are owned by foreigners, this one is not. Part of the tuition from language classes goes towards scholarships offered by the school for indigenous women to attend one of the universities in Xela. Today’s “after-school” activity was a lecture regarding the handicapped in Guatemala by one of the women that is part of the scholarship program and is in her last year of physical therapy. She explained how in her studies and practicing of her profession it was important to take into account the cultural factors regarding healing as well as causes. She explained how a handicap (mental and/or physical) of someone was considered to be a repercussion of a sin committed by the family or that individual. She said that the majority of handicapped people are in rural areas and are indigenous. There is no will towards any type of preventative care. She is Maya indigenous so she believes half in traditional healing but is also a scientist so believes in “modern” medicinal practices. The techniques she has learned at school are and would be (to those who wont accept it)very helpful to the families and communities she serves. For example, where as she believes that having a cast for a broken arm and physical therapy afterwards is important in the healing process and future functioning of the arm, she also acknowledges the work of traditional healers such as curanderos(natural healers) or hueseros (specifically bone healers-that go straight into moving the bone and arm without any type of brace). Her reasoning for this she says is because there must be something to these ways of healing that for centuries have worked, if not, the practice nor the patients would have survived all of these years. Other things she mentioned were gender roles when it comes to the handicapped as well as the environment that they are forced to live in. although not all, most people who have a handicap are taken care of by a female in the family. She told stories of how a boy wouldn’t change his little brother’s diaper because his mom wasn’t home and he couldn’t get a hold of his grandmother, so he let his brother lay in a dirty diaper for hours. There is little to no handicap accessibility in Guatemala. To cross some streets one has to go up about 50-80 steps and go over a skyway; there are no elevators; the buses have no way of transporting someone in a wheel chair; the sidewalks are barely large enough for two people to walk side by side let alone a wheel chair or access ramps from street to street, so they end up riding in the street out of the view of the cars that are driving along side them. There is a group fighting for the rights of those who are handicapped in Guatemala--COPDIGUA.

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