What’s That Giant Star Shaped Building In La Paz?

It’s pretty important to children with disabilities

From the outside, the giant orange building, located in La Posada hotel by the beach in La Paz, kind of looks like a starfish. You might not guess that it’s actually a state of the art pediatric facility. It’s the Centro de Rehabilitación é Inclusión Infantil Teletón (the Telethon Childhood Rehabilitation and Inclusion Center), also known as CRIT BCS.

CRIT is a private, non-profit rehabilitation system that operates in 22 locations across Mexico. It was started by the Teletón (telethon, like the Jerry Lewis telethons), Foundation, which has been operating for the last 24 years and has built the largest rehabilitation system in the world. Their mission is to empower and improve the quality of life for families affected by disabilities, cancer and autism.

06.JPGCRIT opened in La Paz in November 2010, the 17th facility opened by the foundation. It is a pediatric facility serving children from birth until age 18. To date, CRIT has provided support for more than 2,000 families in Baja California Sur, with the program accepting 750 families at a time. They keep a wait list as well.

Before CRIT, access to services, care, and equipment did not exist for people with disabilities. The need for this facility is so great that families from all over the state make long commutes to the center every week from places like Cabo and Loreto, sometimes multiple times a week.

The program’s approach is holistic and customized, meaning that their support plans are tailored to each family and take things like social integration, emotional, spiritual, psychological and physical health into consideration. The children aren’t “treated” as an individual or by an individual, but rather supported with the help of professionals with varying expertise and, most importantly, their family.

Educating and integrating family members into the process is a pivotal part of the support plans. Elisa Gomez Fong, the director of public relations, pointed out that CRIT isn’t a welfare assistance program, but is instead a long-term initiative focused on educating and working with families who struggle with challenges related to disability.

The support plans include a thorough curriculum consisting of a variety of lectures, workshops, and technical assistance programs. The topics revolve around effective communication, occupations and physical well-being. Classes can range from communication tips for siblings and grandparents to more technical workshops like proper care and maintenance of wheelchairs and operating household systems. The whole facility acts as a playground for disabled kids to practice facing their challenges head on.

The CRIT staff consists of various medical professionals with expertise in focused areas like respiratory, physical and mental health as well as social, emotional, and spiritual well-being. There are also 56 volunteers at the BCS location, which include retirees, university students, and family members. While CRIT provides a personalized program for each family that focuses on their goals of physical and social integration, the volunteers can provide other types of support like recreational and occupational growth.

During a recent tour of the CRIT facilities, I saw a group of single mothers gathered around a table making necklaces. Elisa explained that these moms all have children suffering from a disability, like cerebral palsy, that require their constant care and therefore prevents them from working. These workshops provide an opportunity for the mothers to learn a trade that they can market and generate an income with. This is just one of the examples of how CRIT provides support for the whole family.

The Teletón Foundation operates on donations. The average cost to fund one child is more than $19,000 USD per year. This includes funding the staff, supplying necessary equipment, and providing access to various amenities and operations of the center. These expenses are kept transparent and regularly published for donors to remain aware of. Although its programs are not welfare based, CRIT tries to make them accessible to all families by making fees income based.

Donations are always welcome, but especially this year since CRIT BCS was not able to host its annual fundraiser. The 2018 Telethon fundraiser will be held in March and you can find details on their Facebook page, facebook.com/Crit.BCS.

If you are interested in donating, volunteering, or simply learning more about the facility, you can contact Elisa to schedule a tour of the facility. You can reach her at (612) 175-0960 or egomez@teleton-bcs.org.mx.