|Coloring with the children always brings them joy.|
By Erin Rockenhaus
It looks like giant neon-colored Leggos. I had heard
a lot about this place, but this is not what
I was expecting to see. Walking in the big glass sliding
doors, a security guard greeted us and asked to inspect
In the central waiting area, all lined with rows
of colorful chairs, I stopped to look out the wall
of windows onto the gardens full of swaying coconut and
palm trees. If this place was overwhelming for me, what must
the first impression be for the simple Mexican families who
come here? Everything is spacious, brightly decorated, full of natural
light, cooled by air-conditioning, and teeming with smiling faces dressed
in colored smocks.
It’s a very different type of medical center
on the outskirts of Cancun. The patients come in and go
out rhythmically. All of the patients are children, most of
them are poor, and all of them are disabled.
woman waved at us as she walked speedily toward the
reception desk. “Welcome to the CRIT Cancun! I will be showing
you around this morning and afterward you can help us
today by entertaining the children while they are waiting for
|A view of the CRIT play area.|
I learned that this CRIT, (Centro de Rehabilitación Infantil
Teletón or Telethon Children’s Rehabilitation Center), was one of 15
in different parts of Mexico. It is funded by an
annual nation-wide Telethon that started in 1997. They offer this
rehabilitation for free or for very low cost to poor
families of handicapped children. We started the tour on the
therapy wing. The guide led us into a room for
physical therapy that had children of all ages with their
therapists—one is strapped to a machine that teaches her legs
how to walk, another strengthening her arms, another is practicing
how to climb the stairs alone. The next room was
set up like a house to teach the kids how
to manage and get around for themselves. Across the hall
a little girl listened to music as she built a
colored block house—sensory stimulation. Another room for speech therapy, a
place for family counseling, a wing for medical examinations and
|The CRIT staff gives personalized attention to each patient.|
tests, a cafeteria, an outdoor play gym designed for disabled
children, a group of dancers under a pavilion dancing with
the kids in wheel chairs.
Tears came as I sat
down in the lobby to take it all in. This is
love put into action, I thought, this is just how
we should treat the little ones.
My eyes fell on a
little girl in a red padded full-body wheel chair. She was
smiling at me, so sweetly.
“Do you want to put together
a puzzle or listen to a story book?” I asked,
smiling at her mom.
Her eyes lit up and she motioned
to the table where the puzzles were. I spent the next
hour enjoying her beautiful smile each time we put a
piece into the puzzle. Her hands shook with the effort as
she lowered each piece carefully and patted it to make
it fit. Then, she looked around to make sure I noticed
what she did, and then beamed every time I said,
“Good job!” Her smile took her whole body’s effort, but
I don’t think I have seen a happier child in
my life, nor a more beautiful smile.
After Sofia left
me, I looked for another friend and found Maria. Maria was
trying to color with her one bent arm, smiling all
“Do you want more colors?” I said as I
sat next to her.
A big nod and a one-toothed smile.
was in love. How could I resist? I lost myself coloring and
talking to my new friend.
Finally, I was left alone
in the waiting room, all the patients were being seen
and the CRIT was approaching its closing time.
few short hours I had made new friends and my
heart renewed. Some people fear children with disabilities. It is
common in the United States and other countries for doctors
to counsel women to abort a handicapped child. The doctors
and the families only consider the financial burden and the
extra care that such a life requires. They are missing
One day with handicapped children is all that is
needed to discover the secret gift that they are. Encountering
them in love and acceptance reveals just how precious they
are. The light shining in their innocent faces is a
glimpse of God’s own face. That who I saw in
Author’s note: This June and July, I spent a
month on a humanitarian and evangelizing mission to the Mayan
part of Mexico with the Mission Youth Corps International
Volunteer Program. The account written above is true, but names
are changed to protect the privacy of the individuals. For
information on the CRIT in English see: http://www.teletonusa.org/en/mexamerica/index.html.