Helping hands

A great activity was organised by our long term friends from The Netherlands - Ben and Angelique Ummels. They worked with four children who have walking problems because of HIV, one boy with neurological and vision problems and a young teenager with Cerebral Palsy to improve their fitness, co-ordination and confidence and to develop a team building spirit among them. Often children with disabilities in Thailand lack the same opportunities they may have in other countries. Many are unable to access schooling and are kept at home for their lifetime as there are no suitable jobs for them. They have very little opportunity for regular rehabilitation or physiotherapy.

The school holidays from March to the beginning of May is a great time to focus on these kids, and Ben and Angelique picked up the challenge and developed a program for them. Ben is an assistant physiotherapist in Maastricht, The Netherlands specialising in rehabilitation. The children know him well from his regular visits over the last decade and his enthusiasm, motivation and humour all combine to help him relate to the children at every level.  Ben and Angelique, along with a previous employer of Sarnelli House - Jeap who was able to translate - met three times a week for 2 -3 hours with the select group of children. They used the Joseph and Mary Hall, the swimming pool and the gym to provide a variety of settings and to teach different ways to strengthen and co-ordinate their bodies. They even had the kids build a tee pee from big bamboo poles which they helped cut to size as well as with giant banana leaves. They were encouraged to think for themselves and to rely on each other to build it and on completion they were able to sit inside and enjoy their well earned snacks.

The kids loved the activities although it was hard to get some of them started in the mornings. By the end of the four week sessions there was a definite improvement in a number of the children and a deeper sense of confidence in the others. The boy with vision problems was playing goal keeper in the soccer games, a thing he has never done before. The young girl with cerebral palsy found a world outside her home and is now thinking of attending the Redemptorist Disabled School in Nongkhai. But most of all, these children, often forgotten by the outside world, were made to feel valued. A big thanks to Ben and Angelique for their time and dedication and to their charity Stichting Vrienden van Sarnelli www.vriendenvansarnelli.nl  for all their support over the years.