Special Needs Peru

Hola from the desert. I finally am getting a moment to sit down and reflect on the past week of volunteering at the special needs school. I don´t know where to start since I can´t believe it´s been a week since we stepped into the school for the first time.


When we went to speak with the director of the school last week and meet some of the students I wasn´t sure what to expect. All of Huancayo is very poor and there is no special government program for people with special needs. We took a cambi (minivan bus) to the area of the school and then walked up a dirt road with mostly abandoned buildings to arrive at the huge blue gates of the school. Stepping through the gates I held my breath imagining the worst situation for the kids in my head and hoping I was going to be wrong.


We were greeted with smiling kids and a very well kept garden area. There was a jungle gym to our left and a fenced in area to our right. The sidewalks that we walked on were clean lead to several nice looking buildings (by Peruvian standards). There were kids playing, laughing, and if you closed your eyes it sounded like any other recess I have ever witnessed. Being the only two non-peruvians draws attention everywhere and the school was no exception. We got curious stares and some kids were bold enough to come over and get a hug.


We met witht the director and it was decided that the schools physical therapy room needed more staff because so many of the students needed intense therapy. Currently, it had one nurse and 6 students from the local university. We were then told we had to wear white doctors robes! All the students have to wear blue coats but they insisted we get white ones. We tried to explain that we were not doctors of any kind and that our experience in physical therapy was limited. Their response was that they needed help and any thing we could do or teach the students would be appreciated. So we agreed to try to teach some play therapy and run as many recreation activities as possible the month we were there.


We started the next day bright and early. The physical students there greeted us warmly and were very excited to learn from us. We met with the nurse and were given 4 student´s files. I was confused at first trying to understand the very medical spanish terms but then we learned that these were the hardest students and physical therapists didn´t know what to do with them. We looked over the assesments and it was obvious that the more severe the disability, the more confused the students were. We jumped right in, working with the students we were given and helping with all the students who came in for physical therapy. I´m going to save the specifics of each student we are working with for our next post but I will continue with the overall feel of the week.


Working with the students has been so rewarding, even after one week. We love it and leave work each day smiling and talking about all of our students accomplishments. Since many of the students don´t speak, it makes the language barrier easier in alot of ways. The students are more willing to act out what they want or just tell you they understand with a huge hug or smile. We have seen every different disability from Cerebral Palsy to Down Syndrom. Autism is especially difficult for the teachers because they were never taught about it. I have become known as the autism expert and have even been asked to help diagnose a child!


The hardest part has not been the language barrier. It has been seeing the lack of equiptment, supplies, and basic resources. The children in wheelchairs have the cheapest chair available on the market. It is made from a lawnchair and bicycle tires. It does the job for some but my student with cerebral palsy has to be tied to her chair with a blanket to prevent her from sliding out of it. It is hard to watch her struggle to keep herself in the chair when she has no control. The therapy room that we work in has dirty mats that are never cleaned and in desperate need of replacing. The school can´t even afford rubbing alcohol or rubber gloves. We have to be selective as to which students we use gloves with because we only have one box. Many of the students have some form of fungus or parasite so washing our hands is essential.


I´m not writing this for pity. The students are happy, clothed and loved. We can´t give everyone in this world what we can get in a store that we can drive to and pay for with money we can spend freely. I write this so hopefully people will take a look around and appreciate all that they have.


One Response to “Special Needs Peru”

  1. Barb says:

    We are very blessed with the abundance of our resources. Your trip will definitely bring to light all that we have and take for granted and hopefully spur others on to want to help and donate to worthwhile causes. Hope you both start to feel 100% better and the food bug goes away! Love Aunt Barb

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