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Cangrejal Special Education and Health Project

People with disabilities make up one of the most disadvantaged sectors in society in Honduras, and they often lack the opportunities for special education or support they need in order to be successful within their communities. Un Mundo's Cangrejal Special Education and Health Project (CSEHP) addresses this problem by facilitating access to education and healthcare for children, youth and adults with cognitive, physical and learning challenges living throughout the communities of the Cangrejal River Valley in Northern Honduras. 

CSEHP is a localized program that is tailored to the needs of each individual. It is the only known program in Honduras where children with disabilities are integrated and supported within the public school and health systems, unlike the traditional exclusionary methods used throughout Honduras. It is the only program of its kind in Honduras, having been planned and implemented by and for the families of children with disabilities.

In addition to making it possible for over 20 students from the Cangrejal Valley to attend the Emilia D’ Cuire School for Special Education in the nearby city of La Ceiba for 5 years, the project has organized the Special Needs Association, a group of dedicated parents, teachers and other allies who are committed to ensuring that local individuals with special needs thrive.

History:

The Cangrejal Special Education Project started as a pilot program in late 2008, after identifying many highly functional children and youth with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, cognitive delays and microcephalia who were not attending school. In the Cangrejal region, schools have extremely limited resources, are often overcrowded, and lack the capacity to serve children with special needs or learning challenges.  Due to this educational gap, the Cangrejal Special Education Pilot Program was born in 2009, which initially allowed eight individuals ages 4-21 to attend  Emilia D’ Cuire School for Special Education.  During this pilot phase Un Mundo contracted a van to transport the students into the city each day, parents of the children taking turns supervising the children during their daily trip to school. 

 

The success of the pilot program encouraged us to continue expanding the program, and in late 2009 and early 2010 we received a grant from The May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust and the SG Foundation, allowing our program to grow substantially.  These funds allowed us to purchase a 15-passanger vehicle to transport our students and to hire two local full-time staff members, making it possible to enroll four new students at Emilia D’Cuire in 2010 in addition to the original eight.  We were also able to expand the parent committee that had formed during the pilot program—a group composed of fathers and mothers of children in the special-education program.

 

This past year the committee of parents elected a Board of Directors among themselves, whose leaders are responsible for managing money, planning monthly meetings, and identifying prospective students for the program. Un Mundo and the parents meet monthly to assess the progress of the children, report on spending and to learn more about disabilities through workshops and discussions.  The group is currently working to gain legal status as a formal Honduran entity, which will allow them to generate future funding and will ensure that all project capital, such as the vehicle, will continue to be used for their original purposes. The parent committee’s growing sense of leadership over the past two years has inspired our hopes that the CSEP will one day operate independently of Un Mundo, and will continue to increase understanding and compassion for individuals living with mental and physical challenges within the Cangrejal Valley.

 

The parent committee is the core of our efforts, developed precisely to address the long-term sustainability of our program. Transporting children in the Cangrejal Valley, some who live over two hours away from the special-needs school in La Ceiba, is not the most effective long-term solution given the distance and the carrying capacity at the school.   Therefore, the parent committee has been working with our staff, a team of occupational therapists, student researchers, and the teachers at Emilia D’Cuire to outline a plan for building a health and special-education program in the Cangrejal Valley itself.  For now though, as our committee builds, and as the understanding of the benefits of special education spreads in our rural area, we feel that our partnership with Emilia D’ Cuire is a pertinent current solution.

 

Timeline/History:

2011:

  • Continue to assist the attendance of 15 students at Emilia D Cuire School for Special Education
  • Continue monthly field trips with participating students
  • Fully develop the parents board of directors (by-laws, roles, group structure)
  • Develop parent committee vision and mission for project
  • Facilitate parent committee to identify location and land for local project
  • Facilitate parent committee to design programming details for local project
  • Facilitate parent committee to design infrastructural outline of committee plans
  • Support parent committee to develop project budgets

2012

  • Assist with the attendance of current 20-30 students at school for special education
  • Obtain legal recognition by state for parent association
  • Support parent committee to compile complete project proposal
  • Identify with parent committee funding partners
  • Work with parent committee to solicit potential funders

2013-2014

  • Break-ground on local Cangrejal project
  • Assist with the attendance of current 20-30 students at school for special education

2015

  • Inaugurate completed local school/clinic serving 100 individuals in the Cangrejal Valley