I am due back at the community clinic in Mathias Velho the next day and Maribela invites me into one of her groups. She is an Fonaudiologica (Speech & Language Therapist). Her groups consist of children with speech difficulties. There are four members in the group all mothers and one child is with its mother and grandmother. Everyone sits around listening to Maribela reading out words from a laptop to test pronunciation. The group is specially designed for helping engage parents as well as the children so they can continue the work at home. She asks if anyone knows how to speak English and one boy nods and tells me he ‘loves me’, no-one has a clue what he’s just said and neither has he.
I then get a tap on the shoulder by one of the doctors telling me to come back quickly to the nurse (Sandra’s) room as someone is just about to find out if she is pregnant or not. I sit in a room with the lady who has recently split from her husband, she already has two children and she doesn’t look happy. She used to be on the contraceptive injection but stopped after the split. She looks really We sit for 5 painful minutes waiting for a second line on the test strip. It’s negative. I can see the relief on her face she’s leaves with more condoms.
I then get told to take a picture of a woman breast feeding an older child in the waiting room. She is happy for me to take the picture and calmly stares into the lens with the angelic like child. It seems every one breastfeeds, on buses, metro, walking around. There are lots of teenage pregnancies, some as young as 12 years old. They say it is difficult to engage the younger girls into any groups.
In foyer of the clinic another group is waiting to join Maribela. This time it’s for the a group of children with delayed development and possible autism. There are five children with their mothers There is the usual confident child and mother, independent child and mother, shy child and mother, and ‘not having any of it’ child and mother. However, over the 8 weeks the group has run every 2 weeks there has been a big improvement in one family who are now engaging more.
Maribella brings out child sized rolls of paper and the children lay down, then a wonderful interaction by both child and mother appear when they draw an outline around their child. Later they fill in the body parts and get the children to name them. One child is very animated and talkative, I am later told he doesn’t speak Portuguese but his own language, I wouldn’t have known.
The group lasts no more than 30-40 minutes Maribela’s energy and enthusiasm has kept their attention this long and its enough. The parents seem happy and leave with the rolled up pieces of paper back home.
Maribela also says that she creates make-shift libraries with parents and get them to bring popular children’s magazines to fill them.
At lunch I sit with the trainee doctors, pharmacists and social worker and we eat lunch. Sandra the nurse has ordered the food and it’s the usual huge carb feast – Pasta and meat, chips, potatoes, rice and refried beans and chicken… Oh and salad.
Apparently Sandra is the nurturing one who looks after everyone, she is also 3 months pregnant. I said did she do her own pregnancy test – they said ‘she sure did!’