Despite the health and emotional turmoil Peru is facing due to the COVID 19 pandemic, Manos Unidas Peru is outstandingly facing the challenges with confidence and precision. Although the school doors closed March 6, 2020 to 50 children with special education needs, MUP found a way to connect with families and promote learning beyond the brick and mortem classroom.
Given that most MUP teachers and less than half of the families do not have consistent internet in their homes, the team resorted to cellular data and the famous app “Whatsapp” to deliver education at a distance. Now, six months into the program, MUP teachers are producing pre-recorded education content, parent training videos, conducting live video calls with families and even creating webinars and virtual classroom sessions on zoom and Gmeet!
The families in the primary school grades have been taught to implement basic ABA (applied behavior analysis) approaches to teaching new skills and even learned to take data! Parents who once dropped their kids a the front door of the school are now skilled instructors thanks to the dedication and commitment of both teacher and parent to learn the skills needed to educate their children.
Teenagers attending the teen transition group are joining zoom and gmeet calls, to learn about everything from basic cooking to science lessons about the respiratory system.
Youth who were once enrolled in an inclusive vocational training program and now meeting three times a week on Gmeet, learning basic digital skills and socializing together. They continue receiving instruction focused on social/emotional development, daily living skills like how to make simple meals, take care of food in the refrigerator, even some basic English.
Students who once received physical therapy at school 2-3 times per week, are now at home. MUP’s physical therapist who has dedicated more than 10 years to supporting the children, has turned to recording individualized sessions in his home using his own children for demonstration. He is recording personalized sessions for the families of six students to implement at home.
We can positively confirm that 49 students are actively receiving a quality education thanks to the support and dedication of their parents and family members.
During a time where economies have sunk, health centers have collapsed and people live in fear, children with disabilities are often the last priority in a family’s survival list. Now, with MUP’s virtual education program, we are providing families and youth with the tools they can use to thrive. Tools that will bring our students to the dinner table and not be an after thought.
I applaud the Manos Unidas teachers who have faced technological challenges, collapsed cell phones, unpredictable internet, unstable home environments, family health crisis and economic challenges during this time, to reach and teach the children we care most about.