Only 4% of children with special needs in Cusco receive formal education. Alma supports Manos Unidas because they are working to change this statistic every day. Started in 2008, they are the first non-profit education centre for children with special needs. As my sister had special needs, this cause has always been very close to my heart. Thus, I was thrilled to have the privilege of visiting Manos Unidas recently with Alan.
During our trip, we were able to see the happiness and excitement of the children attending their programs. From traditional classes to learning how to cook, Manos Unidas has a great variety of education initiatives for the children.
This year, Rotary Etobicoke provided Manos Unidas with funding to purchase play equipment to improve gross motor skills for the young children (aged four to six). By developing gross motor skills in young children, Manos Unidas prepares children for participation in their primary education inclusion program. This inclusion program helps children with special needs be included in a traditional school, integrating them with other students their age to develop academically while also providing the opportunity to create new friendships and develop socially.
To gain a deeper understanding of the inclusion program, Alan and I visited the school where the program was held. Here we saw children working with teachers in addition to children completing an exam in a traditional classroom. By visiting the school’s inclusion program I could see the sustainability and long-term impact of the play equipment. By investing in young children with special needs, we can improve the children’s gross motor skills today while also preparing them for successful participation in primary education in the near future.
There is still a long way to go before all children with special needs receive formal education in Cusco but Manos Unidas, with our support and the help of funders like Rotary Etobicoke, are paving the way for that dream to become a reality.