The Manuel Duato Special Needs School is one of the longest-running Columban programs in Peru, having been established over 34 years ago to serve the most vulnerable of the nation’s economically disadvantaged citizens. Today, over 500 students with developmental disabilities and hearing impairments attend the school, which is located in one of the most impoverished sections of Lima. Here, families crowd together to live in small shanties built into the mountainside—a very difficult place to raise children, especially those with special needs. The school provides a safe learning environment free of charge for the children and a brief respite from 24-hour-a-day care for their parents.
In addition to special education, the school provides occupational therapy, giving students a chance to participate in workshops that provide life and job skills for their adult years, such as needlework, woodwork, cooking and general cleaning.
Over the years, Columban benefactors have supported the school’s daily operations as well as many important improvements. In 2004, much-needed repairs to the school’s gymnasium roof and restrooms were completed. In 2005, the school added a new gymnasium and classroom for students with Down syndrome, and it purchased diagnostic hearing equipment and resources to expand educational programs for hearing-impaired children. In 2006, the school enhanced its computer lab with new computers, desks, chairs and electronic learning materials. Today, the financial needs of the Manuel Duato Special Needs School are ongoing, as is the need for the school itself.