Saturday, July 14, 2012

CAMP JAKE :: First day of camp!

Tom helping Miele from the van
Auguste exiting the van in the motorized lift!
Fresh off the bus for Camp Jake
Jimmy carrying his most prized possession: his accordian!
What better way to begin the day than watching the kids pull up to the entrance of Kaliko in the WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE VAN we helped secure for St. Vincent's! The bus finally made it through customs and into the hands of St. Vincent's a few short weeks ago. 

We couldn't have done so without the Rhode Island Conference United Church of Christ Haiti Task Force, Physicians for Peace, St. James Episcopal (Eureka, AR), Episcopal Diocese of RI and all of the Red Thread supporters -- to them we tip our hats and say thank you again. Actually seeing the fruit of our labor in use after months of waiting was fantastic! Just another example of the red thread of destiny connecting us all for the good of others. 

Greeting the van and following bus was our own Camp Jake band, complete with guitar, vocals and percussion. Campers enjoyed the music as they were lowered from the van on the lift and hugged by new and returning counselors. New campers were a bit shy, but the returning ones were exuberant! Their smiles were infectious, their hugs and kisses much anticipated.

Orientation fun
Tom, JoJo and Gregory having too much fun during orientation
The junior counselors all had the same impression of the campers, one that The Red Thread has had for a long time: what an amazing group of kids! They were very touched by the way the campers helped one another. A sighted camper would go to the entrance of the bus to receive a blind friend's hand and guide them to the reception area. A blind camper pushed his wheelchair-bound friend up the ramp to wait with the others. To this day, observing this kindness first-hand amazes us and sets a fine example of how humans should treat one another, regardless of ability.

Following a brown bag lunch, name tags were passed out and room assignments were given. Counselors helped campers retrieve their luggage and find their rooms to settle in and rest after the long, sweaty drive from Port-au-Prince.

Blind campers in the pool
Then the fun really began. We met at the pool mid afternoon and, after reviewing all of the safety rules, it was open for business. Unlike the first camp, where swimming was a new experience and campers needed a lot of encouragement to get in the water, returning campers flocked to the pool. Even the most shy asked to go in. With ample counselors, everyone who wanted to go in, did. Anyone in a wheelchair was lifted out and had their own personal lifeguard. They floated, splashed, dunked, danced, laughed and played. 

Jake doing an assessment (foreground)
Jake, the physical therapist from Physicians For Peace, moved from camper to camper -- focusing primarily on the non-ambulatory ones -- to give an initial assessment of their condition. By doing this in the water, it lessened any anxiety that the kids might experience. He accessed the overall tone and spacicity (amount of rigidity compared to passive motion) of the campers arms and legs. Jake also tried to move their limbs in certain directions to release tension and to see if they have full range of motion. In layman's terms, he was determining how each person was wired for motion. 

Jake then showed Sonya, one of the counselors, how to do weight bearing and stretching exercises with Auguste, one of the wheelchair-bound children whose movement is very limited. When Auguste floated, he didn't respond as well - his legs contracted up to his chest as they often do while sitting in his wheelchair, But when we raised him to his feet in a somewhat standing position, he slowly extended his legs and began to bear weight on one or the other. 

In short, Auguste STOOD in the water, something we had never seen him do! (Sadly, we have no photos since Sonya is the photographer!)

This sparked quite the commotion among observing campers, particularly a group of deaf girls working with Laura. His standing caught their attention and they poked at one another to gain attention. The looks on their faces was pure astonishment. They quickly signed 3 phrases repeatedly:
  • "No way"! 
  • "That can't be happening!"
  • "Do you see that?" 
Laura responded "Yes, he's standing on one leg and then the other. We hope by the end of the week he can stand on both". To which they replied "that is REALLY cool". 

Little did they know that, by the end of our time in the pool, Auguste was already putting weight on both legs! We asked Jake his thoughts on this and he was thrilled with what he observed, stating that Auguste showed lots of potential. We will continue working with him throughout the week, pursuing weight bearing exercises and limb extensions for longer periods of time to improve potential bone and muscle growth. We will also begin training both counselors and caregivers with these exercises so this basic physical therapy can be continued far beyond Jake's time with the kids.

Andy with 2 of our blind campers, Elisme and Markenson
Following pool time, campers returned to their rooms to change and relax before dinner. 

Dinner is another story that we'd like to share. But it is late, we are exhausted and there is time for that story tomorrow. Sleep well, dear readers, and we will talk to you again in the morning.

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