Australian poet Pam Brown once wrote: "An older sister is a friend and defender -- a listener, conspirator, a counselor and a sharer of delights." Sisterhood is a very strong bond; however, for 12-year-old Yadinay Martinez, her relationship with older sister Jacquelin, 24, is different from Brown's description.
The sisters are part of the Community Based Rehabilitation Program. They live in Mao, a rural city almost two hours outside of Santiago, Dominican Republic. Inside their wooden shack which rests among banana trees, Yadinay can often be found brushing her older sister's hair. Jacquelin suffers from a debilitating form of muscular dystrophy in which she can neither speak nor walk. For as long as Yadinay can remember, she's always been there to take care of her sister, helping her bathe, playing with her and reading to her.
Yadinay herself has poor vision and a learning disability which makes concentration and retention difficult. In the fourth grade, Yadinay is part of the school inclusion program. Her promotora, Josie, works with Yadinay's school teacher to ensure that Yadinay is getting the help and attention she needs.
Josie comes to their house once a week, first working with Yadinay and then moving on to Jacquelin. Their mother, Dionela del Carmen, has noticed a profound change in Yadinay since joining the program. "She's become more independent and is a great help around the house and with Jacquelin," she says. "She's more confident because her reading has improved."
For Jacquelin, who has been in the program since its Mao inception four years ago, it has been about improving her quality of life. Before starting the program Jacquelin would go weeks without eating. She wouldn't move on her own and she would cry incessantly throughout the night, leaving everyone in their crowded shack restless and awake.
"I didn't have hope for her," reveals her father, Fredrico Martinez. After losing his job earlier in the year, he leaves during the day to try and find work. He used to be terrified that something would happen while he was away. "I was afraid that one day I would get a phone call that she was dead," he says.
After four years in the program, Jacquelin's family now knows how to better care for her and how to make her more comfortable. They've learned to include her more within the family. "Even though she can't talk back, we've started having conversations with her and it seems to calm her down," says her mother.
Overall, Jaquelin's parents believe that the program has helped improve her life. She is not sick as often as she was prior to the CBR Program, her appetite as improved and she's learned to eat with her hands. While all of this may seem like little progress, it has made a positive impact on her self-help skills.
ICC Dominican Republic (Fundación Cuidado Infantil Dominicano or FCID) also keeps the father in mind for employment, seeking his help with tasks around their facilities, or sometimes the family is provided with diapers or other items for Jacquelin.
For the sisters, at-home therapy sessions have helped bring them closer together. Yadinay helps with Jacquelin's therapy and even reads to her as part of her own. After years of helping to take care of her sister, Yadinay wants to become a doctor so she can "help more people."
The CBR Program has provided the Martinez family with hope, just as it provides hope for all of the children and families served in the program. To help ICC bring health and wholeness to more children and families in the Dominican Republic, please click this link. Every little bit can go a long way in improving a child's quality of life.