Whitney and Justin are volunteering at a special needs hospital on the northern coast of Peru. Hogar Clinica Juan de Dios offers medical treatment, physical therapy and educational programs to children diagnosed with cerebral palsy and other physical disabilities. The hospital serves twenty-six children from the Chiclayo region, a sunny coastal plain located some thirteen hours by overnight bus from Lima. Chiclayo, the fourth largest city in Peru, was founded several centuries ago by the Spanish. The clinic actually lies ten kilometers west of the city, a short distance from the Pacific Ocean and the coastal town of Pimentel.
Each morning Whitney and Justin walk to the clinic, about a kilometer from the neighborhood where their host families live. They help the nurses with their daily rounds, lifting children out of their beds and into the bathroom and helping them into their wheelchairs. Whitney assists with physical therapy for the rest of the morning while Justin helps out in the school facility adjacent to the clinic. They walk home for lunch with their families and return in the afternoon for a program of manualidades (hand work) intended to develop coordination and fine motor skills. Whitney and Justin are given the task of coming up with new craft projects each day — given the limited resources of the hospital and limited abilities of the children, this assignment can be challenging. Whitney’s outgoing personality and Justin’s calm presence are real assets when working with special needs children, and the hospital’s volunteer coordinator is very grateful for their enthusiasm and care.