Creating Opportunities and Promoting Inclusion in Chimaltenango, Guatemala

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In recent years, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, around 9 out of 10 Guatemalans now live in poverty.

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26 May 2023

Guatemala is a culturally rich country. It has 24 ethnic groups who maintain their ancestor’s traditions.  A country abundant in biodiversity, nature, and fertile land, it nevertheless faces several socioeconomic challenges. In recent years, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, around 9 out of 10 Guatemalans now live in poverty. Members of vulnerable groups are among those most affected by the increase in poverty.

In the past two years, the rates of inequality, exclusion, and poverty have increased. Guatemala’s poverty rate has reached 90.6%. Of these, 62.4% of Guatemalans live in medium poverty, 29.6% in extreme poverty, and 3.6% in severe poverty.

These poverty rates strongly impact the comprehensive development of many vulnerable groups. Among these are children younger than 5, students, people with disabilities, and single mothers. Many Guatemalans lack access to quality medical care, rehabilitation, child protection care, and special education support. These are necessary to help break the cycle of poverty and inequality.

In the department of Chimaltenango, awareness of disability issues needs to be improved. Inclusion does not exist in many social, cultural, economic, or even spiritual areas. Some community leaders use derogatory words when talking about people with disabilities. Other locals say they want to help, yet they do not know how to integrate them. This is why NPH Guatemala is intervening to help break the existing ideas by using education and family empowerment. NPH is implementing initiatives that allow for a direct approach with the beneficiaries to create opportunities and promote inclusion.

A community support center focuses on disability care

In 2021, research was conducted to expand NPH’s programs into the community. The results showed the need for comprehensive, high-quality care for children with disabilities from 2 to 12 years of age. Likewise, research in various communities of Chimaltenango revealed a lack of care centers and follow-up for the diagnoses identified, as well as a lack of awareness. Thus, NPH Guatemala decided to open a community support center bearing the name of the organization’s founder, Father William Wasson, with disability care as one of its main focuses.

The Father Wasson Family Center was inaugurated on July 22, 2022. It offers special education for children with various types of disabilities, speech therapy, physiotherapy, psychological therapies, and nursing services that serve the population with disabilities comprehensively. Through proper diagnosis and treatment, the children can improve their quality of life and, if possible, may even gain their independence.

One element that distinguishes NPH Guatemala is that it works directly with families by educating parents through workshops and schools. Here they learn about rights, inclusion, and most importantly, to continue with the child’s treatments from home using the tools they already have there, without the need to invest in expensive equipment. This method benefits both families and people with disabilities because they can reach their goals faster in terms of mobility and speech, among other skills.

Priscila López, currently the family center’s manager, also led the research process that began the project’s implementation. “For me, being the coordinator of the family center means service and commitment. Through my work, I can accompany social development processes and provide empowerment tools to families, promoting social changes in the communities”, says Priscila.

The Family Center Has a Skilled Team

The entire staff of the family center is a professional, trained, and committed team. They provide the best quality services with the love and warmth of a family. The facilities are adapted to create a healthy and safe environment for each of the needs of the population served. The services offered in this space are:

  • Daily Child Care (Day Care Center).
  • Academic Tutoring Center (Educational reinforcement)
  • Rehabilitation Center (Treatments and therapies for different types of disabilities).

“Rehabilitation is crucial because it is the care that people need to maintain or expand the skills necessary for daily life and to help them to regain independence”, said Beverly Yax, a physiotherapist at NPH Guatemala. “In the family center, patients can actually receive a diagnosis and proper treatment,”

A Positive Impact on Society

Although widespread inclusion still has a long way to go, NPH Guatemala has achieved excellent results in a short time. During 2022, there were a total of 96 beneficiaries, 123 therapies, and 121 academic tutorials.

Most of the children served at the family center were either referred by other institutions or community leaders, as well as cases identified by NPH Guatemala.  Now Chimaltenango’s population with disabilities has a place where they will receive the support they need, from diagnosis to the end of treatment, all completely free of charge.

“I am truly grateful to the NPH Guatemala Family Center for everything they have done for my son. I have seen many changes and advances since he started his therapies 7 months ago,” expressed Miriam Yala, the mother of a six-year-old boy. He was born with septic shock and had not received treatment due to a lack of the necessary resources. Currently, the boy receives speech therapy, physiotherapy, and special education.

NPH Guatemala, through the Padre Wasson Family Center, promotes the population of rural areas to create a culture of inclusion little by little. This allows all people, regardless of the type of disability, to have a correct diagnosis, treatment, and comprehensive care with dignified treatment in a safe environment.

NPH Guatemala will continue working to build healthier and fairer communities! Want to help change the lives of many people? Join NPH today!