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Disabled child can do a lot – project in supporting the development of the children in PUNTITI Therapeutic Community (Bolivia)

Only 28% of children with disabilities in Bolivia have access to primary education. Children with severe intellectual disabilities are not provided with any form of education, which most often leads to their social exclusion, especially since they generally live in villages affected by the country’s highest rates of poverty, malnutrition and violence. This group of children also has no access to healthcare, rehabilitation or therapy. Their state of exclusion from their environment is exacerbated by lack of communication skills.

The project activities were addressed to 140 charges of the Puntiti Therapy Centre in Cochabamba, which runs a boarding school and school for children and adolescents (aged 4 to 28) with special educational needs. The boarding school has 60 residents with deep and complex disabilities; these residents are intellectually, physically and visually impaired, and do not have the ability to communicate in any way. Due to lack of financial resources, the centre is not able to hire qualified staff; the volunteers had the task of sharing with the centre’s staff and children’s parents their knowledge and experience in psychological work and new ways of therapeutic and educational work with children with disabilities.

Disabled child can do a lot – project in supporting the development of the children in PUNTITI Therapeutic Community (Bolivia)

The project was completed between 20 July 2015 and 31 December 2015. One of the volunteers was in Cochabamba from 8 August 2015 to 9 November 2015, while the other was there from 8 August 2015 to 26 December 2015. The project was a collaboration between Stowarzyszenie “Pracownia Integracji Społecznej PRZYSTAŃ KULTUR” (The “CULTURE HAVEN Social Integration Workshop” Association) and the Puntiti Therapy Centre run by the Hospitaller Sisters.

The project aimed to improve the quality of life of beneficiaries, stimulate their development potential, reduce their risk of social exclusion, and alleviate the effects of poverty and malnutrition.

The volunteers’ tasks included improving the quality of life of the Puntiti Therapy Centre's charges, helping equalise the educational and social chances of that group of children and strengthening their development potential. The project activities included

  • repairing 30 wheelchairs;
  • purchasing personal hygiene products;
  • conducting:
    • communication classes (558 hours) with the 15 most disabled and youngest non-speaking children;
    • stem therapy (249 hours) and polysensory stimulation activities (249 hours) with 16 persons with severe disabilities, which involved the development of a sense of agency and awareness of one’s own body;
    • revalidation activities (144 hours) with 20 school students who exhibited the greatest learning difficulties;
    • daily eating training with 6 children;
    • training of the centre’s 40 staff on alternative communication methods, stem therapy and polysensory stimulation;
  • organisation and participation in a number of events to integrate children with disabilities into the local community;
  • organisation of a support group with parents of children with disabilities living in the Padre Pio X parish and the training of 15 people of that parish who will care for persons with disabilities in their areas.

The project serves the implementation of priority 3 – support for socially disadvantaged groups and priority 13 – education, and will also contribute to the achievement of Millennium Development goal 2 – to achieve universal primary education.

Disabled child can do a lot – project in supporting the development of the children in PUNTITI Therapeutic Community (Bolivia)

The project, which was implemented from 20 July to 31 December 2015, and commenced in Bolivia on 8 August 2015, resulted in the volunteers improving the living conditions and hygiene in the Puntiti Therapy Centre in Cochabamba, Bolivia, affecting 140 persons aged 4 to 28 with special educational needs, 60 of which are accommodated on a permanent basis in the boarding house.

The volunteers provided the children with greater access to educational activities by organising workshops and other forms of activation, and thus strengthened the children’s development potential. Children developed their abilities to communicate with their environment, which will give them some degree of independence and self-determination. In addition, through their communication, stem therapy and polysensory stimulation training sessions they gained greater awareness of their bodies and abilities, as well as a sense of agency.

Thanks to wheelchair repair, the children began to sit with correct posture, enabling them to efficiently move in wheelchairs.

The centre’s staff, especially the therapists, learned new methods of working with disabled children and thus improved their therapeutic skills. Future charges of the centre will also benefit from the care of more qualified therapists.

The events the volunteers organised, aimed at integrating the disabled children with the local community, contributed to increasing awareness of the rights of persons with disabilities and reduced the risk of social exclusion of these children.

The project also provided for setting up a counselling centre for parents of children with disabilities, but because of a conflict situation that the volunteers encountered on their arrival, instead of 90 hours of advice for 15 parents, the volunteers introduced daily food consumption training for the children at breakfast and lunch, thus responding to the needs of the centre’s charges.

After returning to Poland, one of the volunteers undertook an educational initiative aimed at disseminating knowledge among Poles about the plight of the disabled in Bolivia and promoting the idea of volunteering abroad. With that purpose in mind, she organised three meetings (30 November and 10 and 11 December 2015) in Poznan city schools, as well as a photo exhibition on display from 26 November to 10 December 2015 in the hall of the Office of the Dean of the Faculty of Educational Studies and from 10 December to 21 December 2015 in the lobby of the Faculty of Social Sciences of Adam Mickiewicz University. In the course of the project, one of the volunteers kept a blog at http://www.misjaboliwia.wordpress.com/.