Sound health, of course, is essential for a full life. Generally speaking, how is the health of the children when they arrive at Fundación Corazón de Niña?
In a word, it’s grim. Typically, the child arrives in a terribly unhealthy state. She has parasites, head lice and both skin and internal infections. Her teeth need attention, she may suffer malnutrition and very likely she is over-weight or under-weight from a high sugar, low nutrient diet. And most importantly, her soul is in serious disrepair. They are, by and large, in desperate condition.
Our Holistic Psychotherapists Ignacio Cortés, Jean Martín and Daria Rodríguez do a team workshop with our kids on Saturdays. Topics include self-esteem, creating violence-free environments, toxic relationships and sexuality.
Do you have a procedure you follow to address the health of a child on arrival? What do you do?
Yes. Right away, they are assessed by a doctor, a dentist and a psychologist after which a treatment plan is carried out by all three. Our job is to get the child on a healthful diet and to apply truckloads of love and gentle direction as she learns the ways of the home and establishes relationships with all of us. You can imagine how intimidating it would be to suddenly have twenty plus sisters.
How long does it take before you notice positive changes in a new girl or boy?
It varies, of course, with the child. Those who have been severely traumatized will take longer to come out of their shell. The child, after all, has no reason to trust us until we have proven ourselves worthy of his love. It can take time and patience. Others are more buoyant and adapt remarkably quickly to their new home, blossoming before our eyes in a matter of weeks. It is a miracle to witness.
It still surprises me how the creature comforts you and I take for granted — a clean body, clean teeth, clean clothes, a bed to sleep in with clean sheets, regular well-balanced meals, exercise, purpose each day and dollops of love — can do so much to release the inner spirit of a child, allow them to be wholly present in the world.
What is health and wellness from your point of view? What all does it entail?
It is impossible to think of or address health and wellness without taking into account the whole person — the heart, the mind, the body and the spirit. Native peoples and Asian cultures have practiced holism for countless thousands of years. Western cultures are only now coming to understand the merits of a ‘whole-person’ approach to health and wellness. At Fundación Corazón de Niña, we make very conscious efforts to shape and practice a way of living that promotes the health of all four elements — heart, mind, body and spirit.
What does the practice of health and wellness entail? It means training and endless amounts of patience on our part at Corazón to persist with each child to unlearn old habits and entrench new habits that promote her health and wellness.
When these children arrive, they might have no experience with soap. They’ve rarely had clean clothes or clean sheets. They have little understanding of hygiene. They don’t know how to use the bathroom properly or brush their teeth properly or wash themselves properly. If they were just a blank slate our job would be less difficult. But they bring with them counter-productive behaviors that must be unlearned and replaced with growth-promoting behaviors. It’s a painstaking, lengthy process but eventually they get it and then their new life moves forward.