We are pleased to welcome Tania Egan, MS, CCC-SLP, as our
guest host for the SLP chat tonight, Monday, Feb 2, 2004.
She will be addressing the topic of Volunteer Opportunities
for SLPs in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Ms. Tania Egan is currently working as a bilingual SLP, providing
speech/language services to preschool/early childhood children and
performing bilingual speech/language screenings and evaluations
district-wide. Prior to her current position, Tania spent 13 months
as a volunteer at Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH), a home for nearly
600 orphaned and abandoned children in rural Honduras. Her time at NPH
was spent working with preschoolers and elementary age students who
needed special education services, specifically in the area of speech
Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos is a charitable organization serving
orphaned and abandoned children in Latin America and the Caribbean.
NPH now has homes in at least 7 countries in Central America and the
Caribbean. Each home provides housing, food, and an education
(preschool to high school or vocational training, and in many cases,
college) to its children. Along with employing approximately 200
native Honduran staff (caregivers, cooks, office staff), NPH-Honduras
accepts approximately 20-30 international volunteers per year to
fulfill specific jobs and to interact closely with the children on a
<Robin> Welcome! Tonight we are chatting with Tania Egan, MS, CCC-SLP, about the topic of
Volunteer Opportunities for SLPs in Latin America and the Caribbean.
<Tania_Egan> Hi everyone!
<Robin> Tania, tell us about Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH)
<AdrienneFSU> uh, starting with the English translation maybe?
<Tania_Egan> Well, to begin, NPH is translated as Our Little Brothers and Sisters.
<Tania_Egan> It is a non profit organization that houses about 600 orphaned and abandoned kids
<Tania_Egan> However, there are also homes in many other countries throughout Central America.
<Tania_Egan> Actually, the first home was in Mexico, and the 2nd was in Honduras.
<Tania_Egan> NPH's mission is to provide housing, physical needs, schooling, and unconditional
love to their children.
<Robin> Tania, tell us about the opportunities for SLPs at NPH communities.
<Tania_Egan> Well, when I first went there as a volunteer in 1999, there wasn't really a speech-
language program for volunteers. However, since that time, we have been able to generate
enough interest to keep a program going in the NPH school in Honduras.
<Robin> Thats great!
<Tania_Egan> Carrie is the fifth (right, Carrie?) SLP from the States who has gone to volunteer.
<Carrie> I'm currently working at NPH, Tegucigalpa, Honduras. This evening I got to the 'city'
so I could join the chat!
<Tania_Egan> Check your ASHA Leader from November 18, 2003, and you'll get to see a picture of
Carrie in Honduras!
<Tania_Egan> She is one of the volunteer profiles!
<Carrie> Gina Oswald as well!
<AdrienneFSU> Wow! very cool
<Robin> Thanks for being here Carrie!
<Carrie> Nice to meet you all!
<AdrienneFSU> So there are other services offered, SLP is one of them?
<Tania_Egan> Yes, there are many other services offered. PT and OT have been consistently filled
positions. And, resource help, reading, and special education services. The special
education teachers and psychologists are usually Honduran, but PTs, OTs, reading and
resource teachers are usually international volunteers.
<Tania_Egan> So, my purpose is to continue to generate interest in these types of volunteer
experiences, so that other SLPs who want to gain Spanish skills can do so.
<freitags> Do you have to be bilingual to volunteer?
<Tania_Egan> They do prefer volunteers that have at least some Spanish skills at the start.
<Tania_Egan> But many people come and take language courses before they begin to volunteer.
<Robin> Are the language courses offered at NPH?
<Carrie> In regards to the language courses through NPH, we currently have classes that
are offered by one of the high school teachers. There are three levels, each meeting
twice a week.
<Carrie> The truth is that the courses are more of a supplementary course to a more intense
program, but it is very nice practice and review.
<Tania_Egan> Cool, Carrie! I didn't know about the language courses there!
<Tania_Egan> Many people study either in Guatemala or in Copan, Honduras. Both have some
FANTASTIC study sites and very reasonably priced schools where you study during the day
and live with a family.
<Robin> Carrie, how fluent does one have to be to be an effective volunteer?
<Carrie> The fluency of volunteers here varies tremendously. I believe the importance of
fluency also depends upon what type job you will be doing.
<Robin> Good point
<Carrie> To be a SLP, it would be beneficial to have a basic understanding of syntax and the
phonetic structure of the Spanish language. Of course, fluency itself will improve as
the year progresses.
<Robin> What is the time commitment for volunteering?
<Tania_Egan> Usually volunteers are asked to commit to 13 months, but if a particular area needs
to be filled, then sometimes people come for a shorter amount of time. And many stay
longer. There are two standard volunteer orientations per year - one beginning in
January and one beginning in July. The orientation is effective in that it educates
new volunteers about life at NPH, the childrens' backgrounds, cultural considerations
for working with the staff and teachers, and orientation as to where things are in the
<freitags> At this point I would not able to commit to 13 months of service. Could a volunteer
commit to a couple months of service?
<Tania_Egan> I'm not sure about a couple months of volunteering. It would depend on the current
SLP situation, e.g., if there is anyone there at the time or not. Typically, NPH looks
for people who are able to commit to a longer amount of time, simply for the good of the
children. Also, it takes time to understand life at NPH and to be effective.
<freitags> I see....
<Robin> Tania, lets start with what a typical day is like for a volunteer SLP at NPH...also tell
us about housing, living expenses, etc.
<Tania_Egan> A typical day - Carrie, give your answer on this too!
<Tania_Egan> When I was there, I went to school around 7am and worked with kids individually who
had speech and language concerns. Also, I spent a lot of time with the special education
class. I worked with the youngest children during the afternoons.
<Carrie> A typical day would be getting up at 5:30 or 6:00am then going to the kitchen for
breakfast. Some days we go directly to Casa Suyapa (where the youngest children live)
and do therapy for the first two hours of the day.
<Tania_Egan> Casa Suyapa is a place where many of the kids are receiving services for S/L.
<Tania_Egan> The school includes kids from preschool to junior high. A lot of the kids also are
learning skills in work shops, such as clothes making, shoe making, maintenance, etc.
<Robin> Did you bring your own therapy materials with you?
<Tania_Egan> The NPH SLPs have now gathered quite a few donated materials. When I went, I asked
for donations to be sent to me. Companies are good about that. And when people go down
to visit they usually bring requested items.
<Robin> Carrie, what time does your work day end?
<Carrie> Two days of the week, the therapist works at the school until 4:00pm and three days
a week at 1:00pm.
<Carrie> The days that end at 1:00pm give us time to do screenings, write reports, and consult
with the internal physician.
<Tania_Egan> Also, each volunteer is paired with a hogar (home), which is a particular group of
approximately 20 kids grouped by age/gender. You eat dinner with them and spend
weekends/evenings with that group of kids. You're kind of a mentor as well as a
caregiver and friend.
<Tania_Egan> What's really nice about being an SLP there, is that you get to see kids in all
different contexts - school, home, interactions with caregivers, etc.
<Tania_Egan> Carrie and Gina have also done some overall preschool screenings... right Carrie?
Have you also collected/compiled norms from these?
<Carrie> Yes, Gina and I have done the beginning ground work for 'Ranch norms' concerning
screening for children 3 until 9 years of age. We'll need to keep working on it, of
<Robin> Do you have any free time?
<Carrie> Free time is from the time that work is over until 6:00pm. At that time all of the
volunteers go to their 'hogar' or home. That's were you REALLY get to know the children.
We stay there until when the children go to bed.
<Robin> Do you live with the kids?
<Tania_Egan> There is housing for volunteers. Two volunteers usually live together, and each
year, there are approximately 20-30 international volunteers.
<Tania_Egan> Volunteers live in sort of dorm-style rooms, two people per room with a bathroom.
There is a shared kitchen for the group of volunteers.
<Robin> Carrie, since you are there now...is there anything you'd like to add about the living
<Carrie> It is very reasonable. Also, the majority of the volunteers live in Casa Personal with
another volunteer, but there are a few that choose to live with another Honduran employee.
There are a few other options.
<Tania_Egan> It's an absolutely amazing cultural experience.
<freitags> It sounds like an amazing experience!
<Robin> Is there some kind of stipend provided to volunteers?
<Carrie> I'll answer regarding the stipend. Currently we are receiving something that is the
equivalent of $80 a month. This is for living expenses, but we do not have to spend
money on food or housing!
<Tania_Egan> The stipend covers any extra food or basic necessities. Food, housing, personal
care products are provided.
<Robin> So expenses are kept at a minimum.
<Tania_Egan> Yes, but things don't cost too much either, generally.
<Robin> Do you have to pay for your travelling expenses to and from the US?
<lidia> The travel is on your own, correct? Or is it sponsored by an organization of some kind?
<Tania_Egan> Volunteers typically pay their travel expenses.
<Tania_Egan> Some people pay for travel via fund raising or church donations. Churches are
great about sponsoring things like this. Although NPH is not a "mission," they do raise
the children in the Catholic tradition. It is not necessary to be Catholic to volunteer.
<lidia> What is the population you serve ...both age and type of disabilities?
<AdrienneFSU> Good question lidia.
<Tania_Egan> The school population encompasses preschool to junior high... many of the children
have emotional needs on top of speech/language. I think Carrie's caseload includes
approximately 30 children.
<Carrie> Correct! We're at 31 right now with about 5 evaluations pending.
<Tania_Egan> The type of disabilities include language delays, disorders, articulation/phonology,
fluency, artic/resonance related to repaired cleft palate... anything else? Many
children have come from severe living conditions (malnutrition, abuse, general poverty)
so the PTs, OTs, and SLPs work to catch them up.
<AdrienneFSU> Are the kids learning English?
<Robin> Good question Adrienne
<Tania_Egan> There are English classes in school... there are usually 4 volunteer English teachers.
<AdrienneFSU> Any autism or Down's?
<Carrie> We do have one child on the PDD spectrum and one child with Downs.
<AdrienneFSU> Do you do pragmatics? How do you balance culture with pragmatics?
<Carrie> As far as pragmatics, it is beneficial to work and live with the people in the child's
<Tania_Egan> There are some children with more involved needs - a group of approximately 8 kids...
autism, cerebral palsy, brain damage after untreated epilepsy...
<AdrienneFSU> Are these kids "mainstreamed" or kept separate?
<Tania_Egan> The "special education" crew of kids have just moved into a new home, so they have
their own set of caregivers.
<Tania_Egan> In school, there is a special education classroom that the most severe kids are in.
<Tania_Egan> There are some children that are mainstreamed as well.
<Tania_Egan> It depends on their needs. There is a multidisciplinary team that meets to discuss
various kids throughout the year - - nothing like our IEP system, however.
<Tania_Egan> It seems to work well overall.
<Robin> Speaking of IEPs, is there a lot of paperwork?
<Tania_Egan> I know that the SLPs have usually written reports throughout the school year (which
begins in Feb. and ends in Nov., by the way). I am not exactly sure what the special
education team requires at this point in time. But I think all of the SLPs have written
periodic reports throughout the school years.
<Tania_Egan> We have set it up from the beginning that way, because with new volunteers coming
in all the time, it helps to have a system.
<Tania_Egan> It's nothing like the US educational system.
<shelly> Tania, I am familiar with Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos program. In fact I visited the
orphanage in Cuernavaca, Mexico. I met a deaf 12 year old boy there, and he basically
had no training in communication, except for writing and reading. No signs or speaking.
<shelly> There was no SLP there at the time. Do you know of any way he can be helped?
<Tania_Egan> I'm not very familiar with the NPH house in Mexico. I do know that it is primarily
run by those that have grown up in the NPH home. Also, I know that Mexico does train
SLPs at the University in Queretaro. However, there probably is not a permanent SLP at
NPH Mexico. There have been absolutely NO SLPs in Guatemala or Nicaragua
<Tania_Egan> So, I'm not sure that there's an established volunteer position in Mexico...
probably not. However, you could go and start one!
<Tania_Egan> One way to help may be to send materials to the teachers in their schools -
if you have the contact information or to the director or to the child's primary
caregiver. You may be able to get the contact information from the www.nphamigos.org
website. It can't hurt to try, right?
<Christina_Boover> How can we become apart of this wonderful opportunity? I will be graduating
in July. I do speak Spanish. My mother is actually from San Pedro, Honduras.
<Tania_Egan> Wow! San Pedro! That's so great!
<Christina_Boover> Do you have to have your CCCs to volunteer?
<Tania_Egan> You do not have to have your CCCs. However, as Carrie mentioned, it is desirable to
have background knowledge in Spanish speech/language development and some prior
diagnostic and therapy experience. Some of us who have gone to volunteer and have
returned are also throwing around ideas about trying to get support through ASHA so that
students could get supervised hours.
<Christina_Boover> Do they have opportunities closer to San Pedro? I think Tegucialpa is about
3 hours from San Pedro.
<Tania_Egan> The home is not really close to San Pedro - about 4 hours south....easy bus trip,
<AdrienneFSU> Where is NPH (the parent company?) located?
<Tania_Egan> There are offices in many countries, including the countries where the NPH houses
are located as well as the US (Alexandria, VA; Chicago, IL; Minneapolis, MN), Germany,
Switzerland, Holland, and some others. They are all listed on the website.
<lidia> Is there a website for NPH?
<Tania_Egan> The website address is www.nphamigos.org or www.nphhonduras.org.
<Tania_Egan> Check the website. There is a specific email address for the volunteer coordinator.
There is also an online application!
<Tania_Egan> Or, seriously, if you are interested in talking more, you can call me and/or the
other ex-volunteer SLPs.
<Christina_Boover> I can't wait to be able to do something in Honduras. I used to visit every
other year, but I haven't been in years. I was going to volunteer for Operation Smiles
this December, but obstacles got in the way. Thanks for the info on how to get started
<Carrie> I am so sorry, it seems that the internet cafe is closing. I guess I will have to
sign off early, but thank you so much for the opportunity join the chat!!!
<Tania_Egan> CARRIE! Good to hear from you tonight! Thank you so much for making the trip into
<AdrienneFSU> Thanks so much for coming Carrie!
<Robin> Many thanks, Carrie, for joining us from Honduras!
<Carrie> It was really nice, thanks once again and it was nice to meet everyone!!!
<Christina_Boover> Nice meeting you!
<Robin> We have been chatting for nearly an hour....are there anymore questions for tania?
<Tania_Egan> Anything? Who wants to volunteer!
<Tania_Egan> Christina - this is great! I would love to talk to you more if you have any more
questions or interest!
<Christina_Boover> I will be getting in touch soon!
<Robin> Tania, thank you so much for sharing your time and knowledge with us.
<Tania_Egan> You're so welcome - thanks for helping us get the word out. NPH is always in need
of our services. When we talked to people at the Honduran Public Rehab Institution in
July there were only 7 SLPs in Honduras. And they're all foreign, since there is no
university program in Communicative Disorders in Honduras.
<Tania_Egan> It is just such a fantastic experience - it taught me so much about being an SLP
for the Spanish-speaking population!
<Tania_Egan> The kids are great too! I spent a great deal of time with 21 8-11 year old little
boys. That was my "hogar" - fantastic!
<Christina_Boover> It was nice meeting all of you! Hope our paths will cross in the future.
<Tania_Egan> Sounds perfect!
<freitags> Thank you for the information. I will check the archives on this one! Keep up your
<Tania_Egan> Thanks for coming freitags!
<lidia> It was nice to hear about your volunteer work.
<Robin> Good night all!