Chesca Colloredo-MansfeldBoard Member (USA)
A Great Day
Wow – what a joy! I was recently in Arusha, Tanzania and was able to visit Plaster House, a fantastic nonprofit established to take care of children suffering from easily fixable orthopedic problems. Kids with untreated clubfoot make up about half of the children there.
I spent a day there watching the clubfoot clinic and soaking up the organized chaos that is 100 children running around and playing, many in full plaster casts in various stages of treatment – full of energy, joy and fun.
The custom-built facility is built around a central grassy area, which is where meals are eaten, children play, and staff sit on the ground, surrounded by the children who temporarily make Plaster House home while being treated. Mount Meru rises up behind the house and a grassy meadow surrounds the place, so that Plaster House, while on the outskirts of Arusha, a large town, feels peaceful, clean and at one with nature.
Making Fun a Priority
Every child was treated with love and respect. Sadly this is often not the case in many of the places we work. Doctors and hospitals are overworked and there is simply not a culture of making sure that the child is happy while receiving treatment. At Plaster House, the children were smiling and laughing – even in the casting room. One young boy was worried about having his cast removed. The saw is noisy and can be scary. An extra person was brought in to comfort him. She sat him on her lap and gave him a hug. It was only when he was feeling ready that the saw was turned on. Usually there are tears. Not at Plaster House.
But the most amazing thing about Plaster House was how much fun the children were having. There was no stigma since all the children are there to get medical help, whether their legs are severely bent from fluorosis, due to too much naturally occurring fluoride in the water, their feet twisted inward from clubfoot, or their faces disfigured from burns or cleft palate. Kids found ways to walk – whether with the help of a friend or staff member, one of the many simple walkers or crutches that scatter the place, or more usually, just staggering around on their casts. And once they were walking, nothing stopped them. Balls flew, kids raced around playing tag, a full blown soccer game was happening. And sure, kids fell over, but they just laughed and got back on their feet.
I still tear up when I show people the photos and video that I took that day. It is amazing what a vision, love, hard work and a small amount of funding can do to change lives and make the world a better place.
Thank you, Sarah and your wonderful team, for all you do for children with disabilities. MiracleFeet is incredibly proud to support you!