Stumble into one of the four new adolescent groups of our Community Inclusion Program, and you’ll see teens with disabilities working through a simple math problem , learning to recognize and draw different shapes, or sounding out words such as “mama” and “papa.” You may find a few practicing fine motor skills by threading a string through a toy, or you may see them working together as a team to play a game, clapping and cheering on each of their peers—regardless if they “win” or “lose.” If you’re lucky and happen upon the group Estarlin is in, you may even catch a glimpse of his Michael Jackson impression and dance moves.
Estarlin has made great strides in improving his social skills and patience by being in the adolescent group. He is often found helping out others in his group, and his language is improving now that he is in a group where he can talk to his peers more often. If they don’t understand him, he will work harder to pronounce better.
“I joined the program to do more for myself,” Estarlin told us. And later, he sweetly said, “When God says ‘You need to love me,’ he means you need to love others, too.”
The adolescent groups started in January 2016 as part of the Community Inclusion Program. Meeting twice a week for four hours at a time, adolescents have a chance to build on the skills they may already have and learn new ones that may allow them to seek employment later down the line. For many, this is the closest to any type of schooling they will receive. What’s also essential to these groups, however, is the social interaction. They learn to interact with their peers through conversation and team building activities. It’s great to see how they encourage each other and interact.
Katherine, a twenty-five-year-old,has already made many new friends and has made great progress in writing and reading. She loves to use her skills in reading for her favorite book: the Bible, and off course it enables her to stay in contact with her friends by WhatsApp on her phone, but using more the audio option. And one of the highlights of her year is participating in the “Walk for the Inclusion of People with Disabilities” to celebrate December 3, the international day of persons with disabilities, describing it as an “unforgettable experience.”
The adolescent group she attends is at walking distance from her house, an important factor that we always consider when placing students for safety but also so they can be active and get to know their own community. Katherine loves to sing and is always ready to perform when the 4 groups meet together and in her church!
“Without this program, students like Estarlin may just be wandering the streets and could get involved with criminal groups. Students like Katherine would just be hanging around in her home, probably being a nuisance to herself and her family, because that is what most of them were through boredom before they joined the groups. Now they have a reason to “earn” going to the group and the parents use this thankfully to make them help out in their homes more also, giving them more responsibilities and making them less bored.
That is why we are so very grateful for your support, that help us run 4 of these groups and help the young people with disability (slowly) develop their skills.