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Enriching the Lives of Children with Disabilities

Caring for children with disabilities in Peru is among the hundreds of ways that our Sisters and Associates try to be a healing presence today.

In Peru, the government declared 2011 to 2020 as the “decade of people living with disabilities” and 2012 as the “year of national integration and appreciation of our diversity.” Although there is a general (protective) law for people with disabilities, our Sisters in Peru note that all do not benefit from it. Disability remains a factor that aggravates the extreme poverty of many families.

COFARI (Community of Families and Comprehensive Rehabilitation) began in Arequipa 10 years ago in the house of the mother of a child with cerebral palsy. It began with three children and after a year grew to eight. The staff of COFARI are now offering professional counseling, occupational therapy, hydrotherapy, psychology, speech therapy, balanced meals, and shuttle service to and from home. Most children come from families with low income and pay very little for the daily therapies.

Sister Pat Gootee shares the story of Eduardo who is five years old and has cerebral palsy and mental retardation. He could not walk or talk, but answered with his eyes and smile. Eduardo requires daily therapies to reduce the spasms of his muscles and facilitate the mobility of his body. Sister says, “He stays in COFARI during the day and his mom has found a job to support the family. After having surgery, he is able to sit in a wheelchair. We hope that in a year or two of physical therapy and occupational therapy, Eduardo will be able to enter a special school and learn a trade that can support him in life.”

Another child, Heiner is a 15-year-old boy who was born with “split spine” (a congenital spine disorder), could not read or write and had a learning disability. In 2010, the local government started a literacy project in the community center of the neighborhood (Bocanegra). Once a week, Heiner comes to physical therapy where he has contact with other children. Our Sister Tomasa, a teacher, has visited Heiner regularly and encouraged him to do handicrafts to sell and earn a little income. He also is involved in making handicrafts with other children and parents of the group receiving physical therapy in our project.

“For me, Heiner is a beautiful example of how therapy can let the kids be more independent, and this makes life easier for the family. It shows me also how much can be accomplished when the families take advantage of the opportunities that arise and get involved in the local community. We continue, day by day, walking with Heiner and his family,” says Sister Christianne Gadiot.

October 15, 2012