Wednesday, July 6, 2016
Hola Amigos. I’m writing from Huancayo, Peru, high in the Andes mountains. It’s July, summer at home, and I’m wearing four layers of clothing as I type. We sleep with hot water bottles, filled with boiling water; we awaken to cold air, cold showers, and hot cafe con leche.
We’ve spent the past two days at schools for children with disabilities here, Monday at PRITE Huancayo, an early intervention program for infants and toddlers, and Tuesday at the Señor de los Milagros school for children with severe disabilities. We’ve felt joy, energy, excitement of learning, from both the children and teachers.
This is the first time since we arrived that I’ve had a chance to write. It’s our eighth trip to Peru since 2010. We’ve ´´adopted´´ two schools for children with severe disabilities here, as well as two early intervention programs. We began with one school, San Manuelito, in la selva central, the central jungle, city of San Ramon, province of Chanchamayo. Two years ago, we added Señor de los Milagros, and last year we added two early intervention programs, one in Huancayo and the other in San Ramon. In 2014 we were approved as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, Amigos de San Manuelito. We feel that this is our calling, at this point in our lives, that this is where God wants us to be. Our mission is to help increase the independence of children with disabilities in Peru, through their families, schools, and communities.
We arrived in Lima late at night on Wednesday, June 29th, with our grandson, Dominick, who just graduated from high school, as well as with six suitcases filled with materials for the schools, three carry-on bags, and four computers. We spent the next two days shopping, our niece, Karina and nephew, Paul, driving through the maze of Lima traffic. We bought a wheelchair, baby strollers, sensory materials for children with autism, a boom box, and school supplies. Friday morning, Francisco’s cousin’s son, Martin, set up the computers in Spanish. Saturday Paul, drove us to Huancayo, normally an eight-hour trip, interrupted this time by two hours parked in a construction zone. We passed through Ticlio, the highest occupied village in the world, at 4818 meters (15,806 feet) and breathed the cold thin air of the high Andes mountains.
Monday we visited the PRITE (programa de intervencion temporal – program of early intervention) facility. Located in the basement of a skating rink, it serves 56 children from birth to age three and their families. The children have disabilities such as Down Syndrome, autism, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, and developmental delay due to prematurity. We’ve worked with the director, Gloria Yda Ricse Chavaya, since 2010, when she was director of San Manuelito. She’s a wonderful teacher and friend.
At the PRITE program, we spent time with children and parents, observed outstanding teaching, did a little teacher training, and talked with the staff. We felt the intensity of their dedication, their joy in teaching, the love they put into their work. They told us their dream of setting up a cocinera, a small kitchen area where they could provide the children with snacks. Then we observed as they gave the children a snack prepared earlier, a Peruvian potato dish. I know from my own experience teaching young children with disabilities that snack time is perfect for language stimulation, social interaction, development of self-help skills, making choices, and numerous incidental teaching opportunities. We saw these things happening and were eager to help.
So we spent the rest of the day shopping with Gloria. We bought a microwave and blender, thermoses, plates, cups, bowls, plasticware, a dishpan, a drainer; everything on Gloria’s list of desired materials. We went from small shop to small shop searching for each item, and after several hours, found them all. We hope, next year, to buy a small refrigerator.