A Day in the Life of an Occupational Therapist
Volunteer Maria shares her experiences working and her time spent at NPH Nicaragua.
August 18, 2016 - Nicaragua
“Describe a normal day of your job as an Occupational Therapist.” Sounds easy but still, after almost one and a half years here at NPH Nicaragua, there are no normal days for me. Maybe because I'm associating "normal" with "a little bit boring," but I can say with certainty that I have never been bored during my time at NPH. Almost every day the "normal" structure of the day changes a little bit. Sure, during the week I have some fixed points such as the meals, therapies and meetings. For the first two or three weeks of my stay I tried to make schedules to coordinate the therapies, but I soon realized that it wouldn’t work. There always seemed to be changes in the school schedules, extracurricular activities, or somebody was sick. With time, when I got to know them better, I also got a better understanding of which children needed more or less attention. It's better to be flexible with schedules in my mind.
Normally I get up between 5:30 and 6:00 in the morning to have breakfast with "my" girls (the youngest girls here at NPH Nicaragua). There was always a girl who will come and give me a hug and say "te quiero mucho Maria". It’s incredible how these kids became part of my life, and how I feel sad when they are sad or happy when they are happy. After breakfast I help the girls to find their uniforms, and when they go to school I go have a coffee to calm down for a few minutes before work. During the morning I pull some kids out of their classes to catch them up in their therapy. Sometimes the other kids get angry with me, because a lot of them want to receive therapy as they think these kids are coming with me only to play.
Then comes lunch, which I think is my favorite time of the day because I can see and talk to the external students and the atmosphere is relaxed. Sometimes I have to go to the office to talk with the coordinator of the "Samaritan Project". In this program there are currently five children from the surrounding neighborhoods who receive occupational therapy at NPH once a week. In the last year I started to visit these families once a month to practice with the mothers, and show them how they can do therapy with the things they have at home. With these kids I have seen a lot of progress, which makes me really happy because sometimes I doubted if I was doing the right and appropriate therapy.
More or less, late in the evening (between 18:00 and 21:00), I leave the clinic to have dinner with my girls, talk with other children, adolescents, or the caregivers.
The days are passing by so quickly that I can't believe that my time with the children is almost over. There were days that were so stressful, sometimes disappointing and frustrating, but I think it has been one of the happiest times I have had in my life. I have laughed so much, have gotten so many hugs and kisses on my cheek, and have met so many people and children with such great hearts, full of love, even though most of them have difficult histories.
When I left Germany one and a half years ago a lot of people told me, "Oh wow, there you can help a lot". Only I think that I learned more from the children than they learned from me.
We only have one life and I am so thankful that I have had the opportunity to share this time with so many children, that has been full of emotions, and at the end I feel a part of this huge family.