“Special Education is new to Guatemala and, without it, many disabled children would be abandoned at home, alone all day,” said Nicolas Tichoc of Caminos de Esperanza.
Caminos de Esperanza is a committee of parents and friends of disabled children in the rural village of Panajachel. Their vision is to maximize mental, physical and occupational development of affected kids so they can grow up to be self sustaining and, under the best circumstances, be mainstreamed into society. But, because of the extreme poverty of Guatemala this is not possible, yet. http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/09/09/guatemala.calamity/index.html
Since 1996, when the government passed the Ley de Atencion a las Personas con Discapacidad funding for special programs has been slow. Now, there are six special schools in Department of Solola but, with 300 students, these are serving only a fraction of the population in need.
Additionally, kids who are hearing or sight impaired or who are affected with hydrocephalus, Down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, etc. are required to be mobile enough to get to school. And, in Panajachel, all 34 students share the same tight space.
The federal Ministry of Education (MINEDUC) pays for two teacher’s salaries and the school system loans Caminos de Esperanza space in a local grade school. ADISA assisted in building four classrooms where the children get care and community. The dedicated committee was able to raise additional funds by literally knocking on doors. And, they still need more classroom space and more of a school yard. For sure, the other 250 healthy kids in the school play too hard for everybody to share the tiny school yard. In an ideal world, there would be a safe place to play, a full time psychologist and physical therapists, occupational training and Goodwill Industries to hire those who can work. As it is, there is a volunteer psychologist who comes once a week.
Disabilities tend to disrupt families and many of Caminos de Esperanzas’ children come from single parent families. But, the teachers, parents and volunteers work to make the day good for their special students. And, their concern makes a difference; they told how they assisted in getting a diagnosis of MD for a child, who had been held back in first grade 3 times.
Martha Xitumul, the school director said “The mother had cried for years but was relieved to be able to get some assistance for her son.”
Nicolas Tichoc, Martha Xitumul, Karla Johana de Leon and Marvin A. Quinonez are four of the ten friends, who formed Caminos de Esperanza to aid disabled children in this Guatemalan highland.
Nicholas supports Caminos with his school Jardin de America