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By Karen Sweetland

Imagine: You are a toddler of two or three years, born to a very poor family who lives out in the campo. You are loved, but your parents lack the necessary knowledge and resources to ensure you grow up healthy and strong. At about age three, you begin to feel sick. You can’t verbalize how, but you know you don’t feel well. Your mamita dismisses the symptoms as perhaps flu or gripe. In time, you feel worse and begin to show physical signs, prompting your mother to seek out help.

This was the story of a precious little girl we will call Lily. She is about to turn five now and has been diagnosed with leukemia; it has taken a strong hold on her.

You would think that a small child’s spirit would be broken by spending more than half of her short life seriously ill. Lily, however, exudes a spirit and generates a radiant glow that lights up a room when she smiles, as she does often.

For well over a year now, Lily, her mama, and little brother have been going to Celaya for weekly chemotherapy treatments; it is a ritual that is traumatic, painful, and makes Lily sick. Fortunately, she rebounds after a couple of days and resumes playing with her little brother. She has lost her hair and is painfully thin and frail, but that smile—that smile that warms and embraces all who see it—gives hope that the human spirit can both endure and survive.

Lily and her family are typical of the over 200 families served by the Special Needs Program provided by Patronato Pro Niños. The care provided this special group include transportation to specialized hospitals in Leon, Irapuato, Mexico City, and other areas for treatments, psychological counseling, and medical devices like wheelchairs, medications, long-term hospital care, and more.

Patronato Pro Niños was founded 48 years ago. Over the years, the programs have evolved and expanded, and under the indefatigable leadership of Nory Contractor, the statistics for the program are stunning. Nory (a dynamo), who is originally from Cuba and was raised in Miami, was the director of community relations for Humana in Miami before joining Patronato in 2016. Her sterling leadership inspires. She is a master at networking and influencing, and she takes a special interest in each of the children within the Special Needs Program.

Consider this track record of success: In 2017, the organization provided just shy of 2,800 medical consultations, pretty much equally divided between girls and boys, from birth to age 17. Dentists performed just shy of 7,000 consultations and almost 14,000 treatments. Over 5,800 prescriptions were given out, including new patients that accounted for over 3,400 of those prescriptions. Most prescriptions include donated medications.

The organization is staffed with doctors, dentists, psychologists, a nutritionist, and a social worker to deal with every possible illness but also to build a knowledge base to keep more children well.

The nutritionist provided over 600 counseling sessions and the psychologist almost 1,000. The psychological component is in critical need, especially to parents whose children are suffering long-term chronic and critical illness.

Patronato volunteers are dedicated, passionate about their work, committed to success, and tireless in their efforts to grow the organization and the community it serves so that every child can receive the care he or she needs.

Today the organization has three fully equipped dental vans that tour the campo, and is about to inaugurate the fourth, serving as many communities as possible, with drivers departing early in the morning on a regular weekly schedule, driving often as far as 60 kilometers or more to bring modern state of the art dental care to children in the campo. One van is dedicated solely to serving the communities where Feed the Hungry has kitchens, thanks to the donations of an anonymous donor.

Patronato Pro Niños welcomes all inquiries about sponsoring via a pledge the medical care of one or more of our Special Needs Children, for which you will receive a US tax deduction if the donation is made through FTC International, our 501c3. There is huge personal satisfaction in supporting the life and welfare of a small child in need, knowing you can make their lives more tolerable, more comfortable, and more promising!

Patronato also conducts well-reviewed walking tours, conducted by a corps of volunteers. Please encourage visitors to take these tours, which are such an important part of the revenue for providing care to the needy children.

Patronato Pro Niños holds a number of major events throughout the year to raise funds for one program or another. First up, April 13 and 14, is a garage sale to be held at their headquarters.

Donations are still being accepted up until April 8 and must be in top condition (jewelry, furniture, art, home decor, household, and gardening items, sports gear, electronics are all welcome). Everything should be clean and ready to display.

For information on donations, please contact Lily at 152 7796.

Mark your calendars and plan to attend this large garage sale—come find bargains galore and help the Special Needs Program while you’re at it.

Karen Sweetland has been a resident of SMA for over five years, arriving here from the West Coast. She lives with her four dogs that occupy a good deal of time; works on projects for Patronato Pro Niños, and has an active circle of friends.


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