Over the last eight years, our friends Celeste Marion, a Seattle, Washington native, and Mercedes Delgado Chavez, from Cusco, have tackled a seemingly insurmountable problem: the cultural stigma in Peru against special needs children.
Their non-profit foundation Manos Unidas was founded in 2008 and they have done amazing work with children and young adults with Autism, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and other intellectual disabilities in the Inca capital city of Cusco. They also have created a support network for their students’ families.
Their school, on the outskirts of the city, past the airport, is a vibrant, eminently professional educational operation. They built this with nothing more than a shoe-string budget and pure determination to make a difference in the lives of these young people — children who represent the most vulnerable and marginalized in a traditional society that has not understood nor embraced them for who and what they are: beautiful kids.
As 2012 draws to a close, Celeste reflected earlier this week in a donation appeal on the successes, hardships, losses and gains of this past year, and the challenges Manos Unidas faces for a brighter 2013.
Take a few minutes to read her words and ponder something life-affirming and just plain good, going into the New Year:
December 26, 2012
Being Thankful Isn’t Always Easy
In this beautiful beginning of a new era (not the end of the world) I am reflecting today on my life in Peru. With all it’s challenges, I write to tell you I am overcome with thanks. Here are a few examples . . .
I had tears streaming down my face as I read the news about the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting last week. I imagined something like that happening to my kids or teachers and felt great suffering for the families and community. In the light of that event, I am thankful for the lives of the special children in my life, our community and for the 17 new families we welcomed to Manos Unidas this year.
I was tormented when one of our 16 year old students come to school with a black eye in November, his mother losing her patients and when I saw our 21 year old mom bringing her 5 year old on her back in a blanket, sobbing because her boyfriend hit her. But, I am thankful we have a support group for vulnerable moms where woman can shed tears over a cup of coffee and find their strength.