PARAGUAY: Salesian Missionaries Collaborate with Local Foundation to Build Center for More Than 500 Students with Disabilities
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries have collaborated with the Fundación Teletón (Telethon Foundation) to launch the Center for Integral Rehabilitation in the district of Minga Guazú, Paraguay. The center will provide services to more than 500 children and adolescents with disabilities. Fundación Teletón is a private nonprofit organization that helps children and adolescents with disabilities. Salesian missionaries in the area donated land to the organization where the new center is built.
The Center for Integral Rehabilitation is the fourth of its kind to be opened in the country. At the opening ceremony, Andrés Silva, executive director of the foundation, noted the importance of helping those in need, especially children and adolescents who have disabilities. He said that thanks to Salesian missionaries these youth can now benefit from a service accessible to them. The center was made possible through the collaboration of the local citizens, the Salesian Province of Paraguay and the Itaipú Binacional Company, as well as the collaboration of volunteers and the City of Minga Guazú.
The new center is located in an area that is more accessible to local families who previously would have had to travel up to seven hours to receive similar services. The new building has a room for visitors, rooms for hydrotherapy, physiotherapy, a multi-sensory room, occupational therapy, a multipurpose hall for meetings and various other facilities. The aim of the center is to develop integral services for progressive rehabilitation at a national level for people with disabilities and their families by promoting an inclusive society and coordinating the efforts of various sectors of the community through events, campaigns, programs and initiatives.
UNICEF notes in its State of the World’s Children 2013: Children with Disabilities report that globally, close to 61 percent of boys finish school but for boys with disabilities that number drops to 51 percent. For girls, 53 percent finish school but among those living with a disability, only 42 percent finish their education.
The UNICEF report also notes that studies across countries show a strong link between poverty and disability, which in turn is linked to gender, health and employment issues. The report further suggests that inclusion in mainstream schools and educational settings is usually most appropriate for children with disabilities and when teachers and personnel are trained to consider disability-related issues, they look upon inclusion of children with disabilities more positively.
“Children living in poverty with a disability are even less likely to attend school when compared to their peers,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Youth with disabilities have the same ability to achieve as their peers, if given the opportunity.”
Paraguay is among the poorest countries in South America. According to UNICEF, almost 23 percent of its population of 6.5 million people live in poverty earning less than $1 per day. The gap between the small upper class and the large lower class is extreme and offers virtually no social mobility. Conditions of poverty drive youth into early labor, and a lack of literacy in addition to a weak educational foundation compounds the problem. Those in poverty face overcrowding, low quality housing and a lack of access to basic household services. Paraguayans who only graduate from primary school are twice as likely to live in poverty as those who have access to and complete secondary school.
Salesian missionaries have been working in Paraguay since 1896, beginning their work in the capital Asunción, near the port on the Paraguay River. There, they established a church and educational programs focusing on the arts and trades to help advance the skills and knowledge of the indigenous people.
World Bank – Paraguay