In 2009, the Nicaragua Children's Foundation started the first ever school for the disabled in the area of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. Until that time, children and adults with disabilities had no place to go during the day because public schools were unable to accommodate them. This in turn meant that the parent who stayed home to care for them was unable to seek employment. The school, Los Pipitos, provides a place for children to learn and grow and allows their families a necessary respite.
The education system in Nicaragua is stretched very thin. Although disabled children have the right to attend school, they generally just stay home as schools are simply not equipped to deal with children outside the mainstream. Because parents must stay home to care for their disabled children, they lose the chance to find a job, thereby pushing these families further into poverty. There are currently over 100 disabled children and adults in the area of San Juan del Sur alone.
The school provides somewhere for the children to go during the day. They have a chance to socialize with others, to learn to read and write and most important of all, to play. The adults who attend the school participate in learning activities as well, but they also learn to make pinatas and other crafts which they then sell. Parents have the opportunity to work or to seek employment during the time their children are in school. The school also provides a school bus service for the children.
The very existence of a place like Los Pipitos can be transformative. When we first met Yelsin, a young boy with an infectious smile and cerebral palsy, he had no place to go to school. His parents were trying to teach him to walk with a branch nailed between two trees. Since coming to Los Pipitos, Yelsin is now able to walk with a walker. He also can read, write and do basic math. Most importantly for Yelsin, he has the opportunity to socialize with friends, teachers and volunteers.
Nicaragua Children's Foundation website.