On Friday, we met with an organization in Vacoas known as the Children Foundation. They run a school for children who have physical and mental handicaps, and who are unable to attend public schools. Our meeting was at 2:30, and we were only able to stay for about an hour, but in that time, we managed to get a very good sense for the organization.
Children learn basic academics like English, French, math, and science, and are given time for arts and crafts. The children in the center range in age from early childhood to several young adults who have severe learning disabilities. Virtually all of the students have learning disabilities, and most will not be able to continue with their education after being in the school. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that they are learning a lot, and their lives are being greatly enriched. There are between 30 and 40 children total at the two existing centers, and a new center is about to be opened.
The classrooms are a little bit tight, and sparsely decorated. The school generally follows the government curriculum, and has enough supplies for those courses. Nevertheless, as it is difficult for most kids to follow the normal curriculum, additional supplies are usually needed. The school grounds are well maintained, and have space for a garden, but not for sports.
One issue that we were concerned about in the school was that the kids were not getting enough interaction with the broader community. This has been addressed by some extent by the organization, which occasionally arranges soccer matches with local schools, but could certainly be improved.
A Fellow could really help just by showing up and bringing their energy. Many of these kids feel left behind and neglected, but with a little attention, we can help them gain self confidence, and make a real difference in these kids’ lives.