Gladys María Campa has lived through many of the same difficult experiences as the children that she sees at the South Florida Children’s Health Project (SFCHP), a program supported by Children’s Health Fund (CHF) and housed at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
“I lived through the Cuban regime and went through a lot of traumatic experiences. It helps you understand what people are going through, leaving their country, house, pets, family–I was in their shoes.”
Promoting Healing Where the Need is Greatest
For the past 20 years, Gladys has been doing what she’s loved since she was 13 years old when she voraciously read books about psychology. Today, she is a licensed mental health counselor and a social worker/case manager on the SFCHP mobile medical clinic, serving children in sites across South Florida, a spread out area where residents often have limited transportation and many other barriers to accessing high-quality healthcare.
As in many CHF-supported programs across the country, Gladys and her colleagues are seeing an influx of more children with trauma, arriving from countries where repression, killings, hunger, poverty, abuse, gang violence, and more are disproportionately impacting families. As the only mental health provider in the program, Gladys now sees up to 10 to 12 patients a week, in addition to other patients from the medical program.
Often, the mental health therapies Gladys does with children go hand in hand with advocacy in other realms that can make a life-changing impact on children’s lives. That is what happened with one young patient named Camilo.
A Little Boy’s Unsettled Fears
Last year, Camilo could have gone to pre-K but was so afraid of school that he refused to go. This year, as a kindergartener, going to school was not negotiable and his mother was very concerned. She sought help from the clinic. Immediately the doctors identified a speech delay and, as they heard more about his story, it was evident that Camilo needed Gladys’ help.
Gladys peeled away at the layers to get at the root of Camilo’s fears by learning his family’s full story.
As activists in Nicaragua, Camilo’s family fled when it became unsafe due to government and police repression. Camillo saw how dangerous it was for his brother to attend school in their home country, and he carried this fear with him, even in his safe new environment in the U.S. Learning these details helped Gladys understand not only why Camilo might be afraid of going to school, but also why he was terrified of the police. This climate of violence and fear continues today in Nicaragua.
Caring for All of Camilo’s Needs
Her therapy worked on easing Camilo’s fears about school, but he needed a more thorough evaluation to ensure he would get the proper speech therapy. Without insurance, that would be very difficult to obtain. Meanwhile, Camilo was missing on valuable interventions that were needed for his learning to progress as it should.
Gladys stepped in and, with his mother’s consent, worked with Camillo’s school to ensure that he would get a thorough speech evaluation to ascertain the condition and determine the best form of speech therapy.
Camilo is now thriving in school. Enthusiastic and learning, at his latest appointment with Gladys he showed her how he’s learning the alphabet and is doing very well on his English pronunciation. “In spite of his trauma, Camilo is attending school. He is not that afraid of the police anymore, and we are on the way to achieving something with this boy,” says Gladys proudly.