Manuel Duato Special Needs School (Peru)

February 20, 2010

A Better Life For Special-Needs Kids

Children with disabilities in poverty-stricken areas of Lima, Peru, reach their potential at a Columban-founded school.

Katty Yañez, age 18, is the third of five children. When she arrived on October 6, 1987, her parents were extremely proud.

Katty Yañez and her mother, Maria, fold clothes that Katty created as part of her life-skills therapy

Katty Yañez and her mother, Maria, fold clothes that Katty created as part of her life-skills therapy.

When Katty was 3 months old, Maria took her beautiful baby in for vaccinations. Just before administering an injection, the nurse commented, “Do you know that there is a school near here for children like your daughter?” Maria was confused by the comment.

The nurse explained that the baby had Down syndrome. Maria had never even heard of this term and had no idea what it meant.

The nurse called one of the doctors who explained that Katty was fit and healthy but that she would learn much more slowly than other children.

Maria was devastated by the news and scared for the future. She found it very hard to accept that her child had Down syndrome. Maria’s mother Sonia took responsibility for Katty’s care.

Sonia took her granddaughter to the Manuel Duato School for Special Education the same week Katty was diagnosed with Down syndrome.

Sonia helped out in the classes, and Katty finished her primary education at age 14.

Therapy & Life Skills.

The Manuel Duato school was organized by Columbans more than 30 years ago in response to the large numbers of poor Lima families raising children with mental disabilities.

Today, the school serves more than 500 children. Many of the students are preschoolers, while a large number of the children have hearing impairments that make learning difficult.

Another 30% of the students suffer from difficulties such as Down syndrome. Almost 25% are in occupational therapy which gives the students a chance to participate in workshops that give them life skills for their adult years.

Since age 14, Katty has participated in these workshops in which students learn useful skills such as making handicrafts and jewelry, needlecraft, woodwork, cooking and general cleaning.

A teacher at the Manuel Duato School for Special Education works with a hearing-impaired student to improve his lip-reading skills.

A teacher at the Manuel Duato School for Special Education works with a hearing-impaired student to improve his lip-reading skills.

Maria has accompanied Katty to these classes and has learned the handicraft skills alongside her daughter.

At first, Maria felt scared and nervous around the students. She did not know how to talk to them. Now she loves them as if they were her own. She also treasures the invaluable support from other parents at school meetings. Two years ago, Katty’s father, Miguel, lost his job.

The family has struggled ever since to make ends meet. Thanks to all her hard work at Manuel Duato, Katty has contributed to the family income by selling the table mats and cloths she learned to make at the school.

Maria has seen Katty develop into a caring, hardworking young woman. If Manuel Duato did not exist, Katty would not have attended school. After many hard and difficult years, the family and Katty are now happy.

Maria says the support from Manuel Duato has played a huge part in this happiness. The successes at the Manuel Duato school have been many, but so are the needs. Last year, Columban benefactors helped us build new classrooms and purchase teaching materials.

This year the school needs a machine that measures the level of hearing impairment of children. The machine costs $4,000 and is needed to accurately assess the level of hearing loss. We also need to buy hearing aids for some of the students.

The school’s water system desperately needs an overhaul so we can continue to provide the school with running water and sanitation.

Our parents help out the school financially when they can. But they are so poor, that we need outside help to keep the school running.

We hope you can us help these children of God reach their potential.

Please help Columban Father O’Connell operate the Manuel Duato School for Special Education in Lima, Peru.