Michelle’s Friday Project Update: Manos Unidas

Today I am going to share information about a partner who is changing the life outcomes for children with disabilities in Peru.

Organization: Manos Unidas
Location: Cusco, Peru

Context: In the Andes, children with severe disabilities are often hidden from the community and are never granted access to education or employment opportunities. It is estimated that 4,000 children in the Cusco region have a disability. Despite the high number, there are few examples of adults with intellectual disabilities working in the community.

Background: GO’s Local Hero Mercedes Delgado started Manos Unidas in her home with a handful of children 9 years ago. Now, they run a school for 30 special needs children, partner with 5 public schools to do full inclusion programs, and implement a work training program for 25 youth with intellectual disabilities.

Current Status: In June 2016, GO Campaign approved a grant for $12,024.50, allowing Manos Unidas to expand their job training program. GO Campaigns funds launched a student run café and built a greenhouse. Now, youth are growing their own food and learning hospitality and money management skills. Since the café launched, new opportunities to engage with the community have developed. The local government contracted with the student café to serve refreshments at all conferences held in the municipal auditorium, and each Friday a local high school brings 25 students to the café for snacks and to learn about Manos Unidas.

Meet Yesinia: Yesinia is 18 year old girl who and loves to sing and dance. Before participating in the student café, Yesinia spent most of her day sitting in the same chair at her public school in silence. Her teachers assumed she could not learn anything and therefore did not engage her during lessons. When she was frustrated, her only way to communicate was through inappropriate behaviors like spitting, yelling profanities, and self-harm. Since joining the student café program, Yesinia is involved in hands-on learning for the first time. In just a few short months, Yesinia’s self-confidence and behaviors have improved dramatically. As a member of the student café team, she has learned to set tables, wash dishes, clear tables, prepare food, and engage with customers. Now instead of dreading school, she is excited to learn new skills every day!