Children with disabilities are significantly less likely to complete their education than their peers. This directly correlates to ongoing unemployment, endemic poverty and poor health. In Lima, Peru, Salesian missionaries are working to ensure that all students, regardless of physical ability, can access training opportunities that can open the doors to a better life.
Such opportunities are increasingly critical across the country. According to the National Council for the Integration of People with Disabilities, close to 1.5 million Peruvians -- five percent of the population -- live with some form of disability: a limitation in moving, seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding or communicating. In addition to the educational barriers they face, these men, women and children also must grapple with negative misperceptions which -- while mostly based in ignorance -- further limit their ability to fully participate in society.
At the CETPRO Santo Domingo Savio Technical Center -- a Salesian-run vocational center located in Lima -- youth with special educational needs join hundreds of other girls and boys. They attend school, participate in sports and other extracurricular activities and, in some cases, live in a family home on campus. Thanks to assistance from the Don Bosco Foundation of Peru, and the Peruvian Episcopal Conference’s Share Campaign, students with sensory disabilities such as hearing loss or speech impairment can participate in practical training courses that will prepare them to work in the garment industry, either as tailors or screen printers.
“We know that youth living in poverty are challenged to access educational opportunities that provide the skills necessary to lead stable, productive lives,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “For impoverished youth with disabilities, these challenges are particularly acute: inadequate infrastructure, improperly trained educators and other factors conspire against these boys and girls -- causing physical and social barriers to educational inclusion.”
In cooperation with specialists from Peru’s Service of Support and Consultation for the Care of Special Educational Needs, Salesian missionaries and dedicated staff at CETPRO are committed to changing that. Recently, all CETPRO students participated in a seminar to raise awareness of the challenges their differently-abled peers face, especially in pursuing an education. Students learned how to better show respect, tolerance and a willingness to cooperate with everyone, regardless of background or ability.
“Youth living with disabilities have the same desire to succeed as their peers -- and they can, with the right opportunities,” says Fr. Mark. “CETPRO Santo Domingo Savio Technical Center is working to make sure that every student can access the same opportunities that lead to fulfilling lives and contribute to the social, cultural and economic vitality of their communities.”
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