Working towards a brighter future

Update 2016 so far

Update October 2016

I had a whirlwind 20 day visit to Puerto Vallarta in September and despite being there for such a short time we achieved so much. This was only made possible by all the people who have donated money to support our projects this year and by our incredible team of volunteers and supporters. So here is a snapshot of what happened in September, how your donations helped us and where we are heading to next…

Keele University Catrin Pickles Physiotherapy Scholarship Program

We had five physiotherapy graduates from Keele University who were selected to take part in a 4-week volunteer placement in Mexico. Abi, Sam, Katie, Ileri and Chloe did a tremendous job even before they flew out to Mexico, raising £1400.60 for Therapies Unite. They spent the first two weeks in Monterrey at a specialist centre for children with cerebral palsy called The Instituto Nuevo Amanacer. They then came to Puerto Vallarta for two weeks to work on our various projects. From the outset, I was completely impressed by their attitude, professionalism, creativity, dedication and energy! They were an incredible team who made a huge contribution to making our projects bigger and better. Despite the heat, the poor working conditions and the long hours (some days would be 12 hours!) they never complained and their energy never flagged. With their support, we were able to make advancements in the Therapies Unite Clinic as well as progress our swimming program and deliver a new training program. The money that they have raised has enabled us to continue running our projects and they made a huge impact within our Therapies Unite community. I would personally like to say a huge thank you to them all and to their friends and families who help to raise so much money. I am so proud of this placement as it was Catrin’s idea and she was so passionate about setting it up. With the support of Catrin’s family, Pam Smith and Santander we can continue to develop this wonderful placement in her memory.

Volunteers galore!

Not only did we have our fabulous five from Keele University but we also had the pleasure of having Dan, Sarah, Tessa, Rachel, Emma, Ben, Kate, Kate and Natasha…phew! We had a great mix of physiotherapists, nurses and physician’s assistants throughout the months of August through to mid-October assisting us on our projects. It is great to be able to start offering more volunteer placements for healthcare professionals. Each one brings their own unique set of skills and ideas and I find this is such a great way for us to progress and move forwards. Equally the volunteers are able to gain a great experience of working in a developing country and can get really stuck into their placements which are currently offered in paediatrics, elderly care, sports and rehabilitation, hydrotherapy and postural management. It was fantastic to have so many pairs of hands, especially when moving clinics and running our training programs. Thank you to all those incredible volunteers who helped us this year! They also know how to make an awesome human pyramid!

Moving and Handling Training

We added a new training course this year which was delivered to health care professionals, parents and care co-ordinators. The training program covered positioning and its rationale and moving and handling techniques without the use of special equipment. We ran two courses and were able to train 55 people in total. This is a really important topic to cover as the majority of families are given no information about how to move and position their relative at home. As a result, many people end up becoming more disabled as they become bed bound and develop secondary complications.  The training was really well received, especially to the care-coordinators, whose job it is to visit people who are unable to leave their homes due to their disability and financial situation. They work directly with families to educate them about how to care for their relative at home. The volunteers worked hard in devising and assisting to deliver the training. We made a special booklet in Spanish, with photos, that covered all aspects of the course. This can now be disseminated to those in need. We also made cost effective versions of slide sheets and advised how to do this as well as gave ideas for making positioning equipment at home.

Catrin’s Penguins

Still my favourite program we run…our group has shrunk a little in size due to relocating to a new outdoor pool but we have not lost any of our energy or enthusiasm. We have had some great achievements this year with our swimmers. Sergio, who is now training with the Adapted Sports Team, has been winning medals in his age group at national competitions. Damian, who has also started training with them, is set to be another superstar and was the winner of our Alan Holdcroft Special Achievement Award this year. He is an amazing child, unable to move his legs from the waist down and relies on a wheelchair but has learnt to swim with us and is now independently swimming and even doing butterfly stroke! Darian has returned after having his double above knee amputations and is as cheeky and adventurous as ever but making some great progress. We recently set up a special link with a local children’s refuge which is supported by an incredible UK charity called The Seaver Foundation. They are supporting the younger children and babies at the refuge who have developmental delay, physical, cognitive, social and emotional issues. Halliwick is a perfect form of therapy for them as it specifically designed to improve physical, psychological and social development. We ran a taster session in September with five babies and young children from the refuge and the outcome was incredible. One of the smallest babies we managed to get to smile by the end of the session and another little boy who had been terrified to get in the water spent most of the session laughing and splashing everyone. It was a truly wonderful experience for all of us and we are excited to see how much progress we can make with our new penguins! I would like to say a special thanks to Pamela Galloway who has supported this project from the beginning, being instrumental in our training, setting our program up and supporting us so much with her monthly donations to allow us to continue this therapy. If you would like to sponsor a Penguin too please get in touch!

TUM Team

Therapies Unite Mexico! We have the best team of volunteers working behind the scene all year around to make all this possible. Nadia is our incredible physiotherapist who is responsible for day to day running of Therapies Unite and Oscar and Usiel are our technicians, who work tirelessly in our clinics fixing and adapting equipment. Mariano is one of our Halliwick Instructors and has supported us since day one getting Therapies Unite established and supporting us in all our projects. He recently helped us get some brilliant donations of various tools for the clinic. We also have Rebecca who assists us with our swimming program. I am so proud of our TUM Team and of all the local supporters that help us keep Therapies Unite running and developing.

Adapted Sports Team

Over the summer we started to work more closely with the Adapted Sports Team who are an inspiration group of young athletes with varying physical and mental disabilities. They have very little funding and support so rely solely on donations to run. Their founder and coach, Ericka is an incredible woman who works tirelessly to push and develop her athletes. The team are recently competed at a National event in Aguascalientes where Usiel and Sergio both picked up gold medals in 50m swimming! They have been competing in numerous events throughout the year, winning 8 gold medals at the Paralimpiada and one of their athletes, Chyito is the fastest sprinter with Downs Syndrome in the world, recently returning from Italy with two gold medals. The team train five nights a week in athletics, swimming and gym. They are using our donated gym equipment which is set up in a room in a local sports centre. Thanks to Sweaty Betty and Zoggs we were able to donate lots of lovely new gym tops and swimming costumes to them. We have started to run physiotherapy clinics alongside their training sessions so that we can assess and treat those with injuries and assist with their training programs. The volunteers have really enjoyed this new project and we feel we have been able to make some really positive changes. It is so enjoyable to work with this team; they have achieved so much with so very little. The training is offered to children and adults with any kind of disability and offers a chance to participate in sport for free. They are in desperate need of support to help them buy kit and fund their trips to competitions. If anyone is interested in Sponsoring an Athlete please get in touch for more information.

Catrin’s Centre finally gets a perfect new home!

We had some great news in September when DIF (the local Government) donated a small space for us to use as our clinic, Catrin’s Centre. We had been renting a large storage facility but it had become a little over run with some extra visitors. With the help of the volunteers (who very bravely faced cockroaches and termites galore) we moved into this space and transformed it into a beautiful, clean and user friendly clinic. The clinic is run by Nadia (our physio), Oscar and Usiel (our technicians) and focuses on seating for children and adults with specialized postural needs; however, it also caters for children, adults and their families who need advice, education, support and specialist equipment such as crutches, walking frames and occupational therapy equipment. In addition, families can attend for up to 4 sessions with Nadia and receive a personal home exercise program and advice for working with their child. All the equipment we use has been donated from the UK (with the support of MeDiCT, International Aid Trust, Specialised Orthotics Services and Physio Net) and is checked, repaired if needed and then donated. Once the family has finished with the equipment it can be returned, cleaned and checked and then is ready to re-donate again. Our clinic team also visit local centres, schools and organisations that look after children and adults with disabilities to assist them with postural management. They work directly with staff and parents to provide education as well as run satellite clinics to repair wheelchairs and seating equipment and provide new equipment where needed.


Getting crazy over cardboard!

Nadia, Oscar and Usiel will be attending a very special course in November in Monterrey at The Instituto Nuevo Amanacer (INA). They are going to learn all about Appropriate Paper Technology (APT) which is a cost-effective way to produce various specialist seating and therapy items out of paper and cardboard. We are always looking to ensure that all our projects are sustainable. For this reason, the APT course will be a great addition to the services we currently provide at the clinic. We cannot always rely on the donated stock we have and often run out of certain pieces of equipment that are most needed. There are also often lots of ‘normal wheelchairs’ left over. APT can be used to make a special seat that fits onto a normal wheelchair which can be designed to fit the body of the child and provide more postural support than a normal one. In addition, tables can be made for the wheelchairs which again aid to postural support. Standing frames and splints are also something that can be made from cardboard. These are all very important pieces of postural management equipment that can be given to children from a young age that will greatly reduce the risk of developing deformities and aid with physical, mental and sensory development. The majority of families cannot afford to buy these pieces of equipment and Therapies Unite are unable to fund them for every child. Using APT keeps costs to a minimum as specialist equipment is not required and materials are cheap/free and available locally.

Rotary International have been incredible (Burntwood, Walsall Saddlers and Breewood Clubs) and have sponsored us yet again to fund the flights, transport and accommodation for our Team. The course itself has been organised by MeDiCT and in conjunction with INA they have very kindly allowed us to have 3 free places. We thank both MeDiCT and the INA for supporting us to develop our postural management program so much. Click on them to find out more.

A trip to Mexico would not be complete without a dog rescue!

For those who know me you know that I cannot resist rescuing at least one street dog during my trips to Mexico. One night I received a picture message from the Keele Physiotherapists showing a dog who had followed them back to their hotel. He was a beautiful Pitbull and they had already named him Buster. He was feeling very sorry for himself, very skinny and yellow and even had no teeth! The vet said he was probably about 7 and was most likely used as a bait dog for fighting due to the heavy scarring on his body and face. Buster is currently in a foster home in Puerto Vallarta and is getting better each day and we are now looking for a forever home for this special boy.

And finally thank you…

As always we have a huge team of people that we need to mention who support us in so many different ways in the UK and Mexico. Thank you to all those who have helped us to grow and develop so much over the past year. Please keep doing so…we cannot continue our work without you. To find out more about sponsoring a swimmer, athlete or to donate to any of our other projects, please get in touch.

Special thanks goes to ~The Keele Physiotherapy Graduates (Katie, Ileri, Sam, Chloe, Abi and their friends and Families), Keele Dancesport and Salsa Society, The Pickles Family, MeDiCT, International Aid Trust, Specialised Orthotic Services, Physio Net, Insituto Nuevo Amanacer and Centro de Atencion Postural, Steve and Janet Millwood, Gill Stewart, The Kines, Rotary International and specifically Burntwood, Breewood, Cannock, Walsall Saddlers, Marina Vallarta Clubs, The Seaver Foundation, Pamela Galloway, Pam Smith, Zoggs, Sweaty Betty, DIF, PAID, Comudis, Hotel Puerto del Luna, Fundacion Down, Pasitos de Luz, Proyecto Pitillal, Senior Barrios, Senior Lepe, Sra Yolanda, Ericka, TUM team.



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