Monday, April 13, 2009

St. Andrew's Clinic

For one day each month, St. Andrew's Church in Nogales, Ariz. is transformed into a medical clinic. Children from Mexico are bused across the line for free medical care - the only kind their parents can afford. I met one of those incredible children two weeks ago.

Eduardo Adarga is 9 years old. He can mimic the sounds and movements of any animal you can think of. He gives hugs as freely as he smiles. And if you ask, he might just sing you a song.

Eduardo was born with Down syndrome. For nine months, Eduardo and his mother have made the trip to St. Andrew's. There, Eduardo recieves educational and medical therapy for his hearing, vision and language impairments.

"He has trouble controling his eye movement, and can't see very far," his mother, Adela Valenzuela said in Spanish. When he was little, his poor vision caused him to stumble while walking, she added.

At the clinic, Eduardo was given a new pair of glasses before moving on to his language lesson.

"He speaks at a 2-year-old level," Adela said, in large part because of his hearing problems. In preparation for the lesson, Adela helped Eduardo complete his homework from the month before. It consisted of a packet of worksheets that required him to trace between two bolded lines, creating circles, squares and straight lines. The worksheets are supposed to help him learn to control his pen, and are a step toward writing.

But this lesson will have nothing to do with writing. It is all about giving Eduardo the ability to express himself now, said volunteer Chuck Chapman. Chuck and another volunteer from the Tucson School for the Deaf and Blind began teaching Eduardo Mexican sign language.

He learned the signs for mom, dad, brother and sister, and the signs for some of his favorite foods. Adela believes the signs will help with time.

"He tells me things I can't understand and he gets very frustrated," she said. As he learns more, the frustration will decrease.

If it wasn't for St. Andrew's Clinic, Eduardo wouldn't be getting any additional educational therapy, Adela said. While he goes to a school for children with disabilities, the students there have all different problems, and the teacher can't focus solely on him, she said.

The clinic has helped him, Adela said, and Eduardo will be back next month.

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