By John Warren
Imagine a single mother who lives on the breadline trying to take care of little girl with cerebral palsy while also supporting three other children. Then imagine that this whole family lives in a single room constructed from corrugated iron and cardboard. Pasitos De Luz (Little Steps of Light) enables this family to survive.
Pasitos De Luz is a non-profit organization that provides care for disabled children from low-income families in Puerto Vallarta. It is a lifeline for the more than 120 families who rely on its staff and volunteers to look after their children during the day. These children often suffer from acute physical and psychological illnesses and many are unable to enter the mainstream education system and, by providing a safe place for these children during the day, the parents are able to go out to work. It is open Monday through Friday from 7am to 4pm and offers free day care, pediatric medical services, therapy, special education, music, dance, art, balanced meals, nutritional aid and specialized care.
A couple of weeks ago a group of friends and I were invited to visit Pasitos, which is a ten minute drive from Liverpool shopping centre. We were welcomed by Arturo Ayala, the chief operating officer, and given a tour of every room. We met kids suffering from cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Down’s syndrome, autism blindness, hydrocephaly and other physical and developmental conditions. All the children we saw in the therapy sessions and in the tiny classrooms were happy and smiling and the staff was welcoming and friendly.
We met the nannies, Gloria and Cassandra, who provide the personal hygiene, positioning, feeding, administration of medicine and diaper changes. In the classrooms Martha and Lili provide education for the huge range of abilities and help the kids with normal daily activities such as tying their shoes, brushing their teeth and using cutlery.
Pasitos de Luz has five physiotherapists, Francoise, Mary, Mariana, Laura and Eliseo, on staff who diagnose the children, treat them and provide rehabilitation with the help of electro-sensorial stimulation, treadmills, hydrotherapy, heat and cold therapy and, most importantly, love.
The place is spotlessly clean and smells like it too. That’s because there are two cleaners and a laundry person who work tirelessly to ensure that the bibs, sheets, staff uniforms, pillows and cushions.
Yolanda Sanchez founded the organization seventeen years ago in 1999 and as soon as the doors were open word got around and more families came to ask for assistance. Parents, the majority single mothers, rushed in begging for help, for advice, for supplies, for a friendly face and, most importantly, for a safe place to leave their children so they could go to work. Yolanda has worked full time at Pasitos De Luz since its inception and has never received any financial compensation.
Pasitos receives no ongoing government funding so the organization relies on fundraising events and donations for their operations. If you will be in town on Saturday 5th March please attend “Riverfest”, the annual fund-raiser. It’s a festival of music with seven bands and held at Rio BBQ in Paso Ancho from noon to 7:00PM. (See http://www.pasitosdeluz.org/events/5to-riverfest/ for details.).
If you would like to see an example of how good people do good things please give Yolanda or Arturo a call at 322 299 3625 and ask them to show you around Pasitos.
One of the local donors to Pasitos de Luz is the International Friendship Club (IFC). Its members and volunteers raise money for local charities in a number of ways throughout the winter. We play bridge, we have a social hour and dinner on Friday evenings, we organize lectures and we run our famous Home Tours. Everyone is welcome. Please check out our website at www.ifcvallarta.com or visit our clubhouse at the corner of the streets Libertad and Miramar. We are just above the HSBC bank in El Centro.
A Home Tour is a great way to see four interesting homes. They run every Tuesday and Wednesday morning, starting at 10:30. All details and booking information are available at www.toursforvallarta.com
The IFC Thursday evening lecture series continues on 11th February at 7:00pm at the clubhouse. Kavindu (Alejandro Velasco), Buddhist teacher and author will present “The Five Wisdom Energies: A Buddhist Perspective.” Learn how to distinguish wide energy from confused energy in your own life. Pre-registration is required through dangrippo&yahoo.com