From Celeste Marion of Manos Unidas Peru
“I saw a great need to put value on the lives of children with special needs in Peru. I wanted to show the society that these children were educable and worthy of a quality of life. After working for two years in a rural setting for children with special needs in Peru in which I arrived as a volunteer, it was clear that the pilars of success were parent empowerment and professional teacher training.
My associate, Mercedes, a Peruvian school teacher, and I started Manos Unidas in 2007 in the living room of her house as an afterschool project. It then grew large and we opened Camino Nuevo, the first federally recognized non-profit school for special education in the region of Cusco, in 2009.
Over the last 12 years we have seen great impact on the community. We have seen children learn to walk, read, write and talk. We have seen parents learn to advocate for their children and include them in familiy and community events. We have trained over 50 professionals on best strategies for educating children with disabilities.
Manos Unidas Peru has influenced the Ministry of Education for best inclusive education practices, acheived the first inclusive vocational training program for young adults with special needs and opened a cafe specifically as a job training site for youth in the community.
MUP has partnered with universities across the United States for program development and student volunteer programs. MUP has leveraged these volunteer groups with dozens of community partners including the region government, ministry of education, ministry of work, local universities, non-profits, schools and hospitals providing services to children and youth with special needs.
MUP has hosted international seminars on inclusion and autism awareness, educating diverse professional communities and families across the region of Cusco.
Manos Unidas Peru is a model for breaking barriers and improving the quality of life of children and youth with special needs and their families across Peru.
Global Family Travels asked Celeste, one of the organization’s Founders:
Why did you start Manos Unidas and what is the impact you hope to make or do you make? Her is what she shared with us:
Celeste at Manos Unidas Cafe