Located in the province of El Oro in the southwest of Ecuador, the FPANJEZ association has been operating a school for handicapped children and teens since 1990. The center’s mission is to help its beneficiaries become independent and change how the handicapped are viewed by society.
There are many causes of handicap in the canton of Zaruma, but gold mining that has taken place for several centuries has exacerbated the situation.
Small mining companies use extremely toxic substances, such as mercury, to treat gold, tainting rivers and soil and directly impacting the health of local residents.
In Zaruma, many people live by subsistence farming, consuming water and products from a polluted environment. This affects their health and increases the number of children born with handicaps.
Moreover, due to the region’s geographic isolation, women and their unborn children face health risks during pregnancy, such as a lack of regular pre- and post-natal care, and malnutrition.
As a medical and educational center, the FPANJEZ association helps children and teens with physical, mental, emotional and/or social handicaps gain access to education and therapy.
Without a specialized program, the children’s handicaps prevent them from attending a “normal” class. The association mobilizes the means necessary for proper social integration of its target population through the appropriate methods and techniques.
All of the association’s projects are designed with the goal of proper physical, psychological and social development for the children, as well as their integration into a “normal” classroom setting and, eventually, into the professional world and society in general.
Although the members and volunteers of FPANJEZ are extremely committed to their daily work, they emphasize the need for the Ecuadorean government to take an interest and take over the tasks that they perform today through the association.
An educational and therapeutic monitoring programme for children with disabilities in Zaruma, notably through art therapy.
The celebrations began December 20, 2012 for children with special needs at the institute in Fpanjez. Christmas prayers, a live nativity scene, chorus, and a musical performance… the day was undeniably lively.
The parents’ association, which was equally involved, attended all the performances. The day ended with a distribution of gifts to the children, who were by then over the moon with the day’s events.
But the surprises didn’t end there! On December 21, the children received a visited from Miss Zaruma and her crown princess, who came to give a small gift and treat to everyone. Honored by this royal visit, the children sang and danced with their guests before warmly thanking both for gracing them with their presence.
The 28th of December marked the end of the festivities. One of the foundation's sponors also came to see the children and distribute small presents. As is customary, everyone then made paper mache dolls symbolizing the organization’s staff, and then burned them to bring good fortune and happiness for the coming year.
The various events and demonstrations of attention and affection were very meaningful for the children, who felt surrounded by love.
For these reasons we enter the year of 2013 with more joy, motivation and enthusiasm than ever before.
December 3rd, the International Day of Disability, is an important date for associations that champion people living with disabilities. It was an occasion for the staff of Fpanjez and its beneficiaries to take to the streets of Zaruma to inform the village about the problems surrounding people with disabilities along with all the work the association has accomplished.
The popular parade, which was the first major event of the day, brought together all the teachers and the students of the association, accompanied by the brass band of the school 26 de Noviembre.
But the showstopper was the performance by Fernando, one of the students of the association who is also a talented baton twirler. The audience responded with enthusiastic applause, seduced by the performance of this young boy, and the children’s involvement.
Afterwards, everyone went to the main town square where art projects created by the school’s students were on display : greeting cards, candles, Christmas trees, pencil holders, miniature pigs, etc.
The local radio station broadcast the event, which highlighted the work achieved by the center and its teachers.
The media and the general public’s warm reception emphasize the importance of this school for the town. In truth, society’s acceptance of people with disabilities still has a long way to go. Thanks to these type of events, the association is able to change little by little people’s perceptions.
Zaruma (Zaruma website) was officially founded in 1549 by the Spanish, who had arrived in the region in 1536. Originally called the “Town of San Antonio of Zerro of Oro of Zaruma”, it is situated at an altitude of 1,200 metres in the west of El Oro province. The town sits on the edge of the Vizcaya mountain range, close to the western ranges of Andes, south-west of Equator and south-east of El Oro province.
With a present-day population of 28,603 inhabitants, the town originally grew out of the gold mining industry carried out by Spanish colonialists. Numerous mines are still active although gold mines are becoming increasingly rare. In order to sustain the industry, mining has become centred on the extraction of different minerals, such as copper or quartz. The architectural and cultural heritage of Zaruma, much of which is the result of the colonial era, has made the town a principal tourist destination of the province. Zaruma is also noted for the particular flavour of its coffee, as well as for the importance of its sugar cane production and cattle farming, and cheese production.
FPANJEZ is an association founded by the Gallardo family after the birth of their son, who was born with Down syndrome in 1990. When he was born, it became difficult for the parents to remain in Zaruma, since neither the town nor the villages close by were equipped with the necessary facilities to accommodate children with disabilities, the closest centre being situated in Machala, three hours away. Thus, the family faced a dilemma, leave Zaruma and move to a town with an equipped centre, or encourage the population and the public authorities to establish an educational and care centre for children with disabilities within the Zaruma district.
Eventually, the second option was accepted, and after informal discussions between parents of children with disabilities and others interested in the project, the decision was made to establish a facility that would ensure that children with disabilities in Zaruma would receive education and care adapted to their specific needs. Thus, the parents association, with German Gallardo and Alexandra Toledo at the head, began activities in an informal manner in 1992, under the name APANJEZ (Association of Parents and Friends for Exceptional Children and Youth of Zaruma), without legal status from any institution.
Despite difficulties in gaining local support for the project, the association and its members continued to campaign for more support from public authorities, with the aim of improving the perception of people with disabilities. Unable to find sustainable support on a local level, and hoping to reach those involved on a national level, German Gallardo joined a political party with aspirations of becoming the Assistant Deputy of the Republic of Equator. After being elected and exercising his mandate in Quito, he would go on to meet many members of institutions and civil societies functioning at national and international levels and ask for material and financial support to strengthen APANJEZ and enable them to begin projects. Parallel with this approach, the members of the association continued to raise more local support for the for the construction of a new school, to be built as soon as humanely possible. The first classes began in 1992 in a Salesian school but quickly became impossible to maintain due to a lack of space. A new agreement was established to give classes and provide care in the abandoned Salesian chapel next to the school. However, after restoring and done up, the association was only able to develop activities n the chapel for a year and a half, after which, the Salesian movement finally decided to re-appropriate the chapel for its original purpose.
Regarding the development of a sustainable and high quality medical-educational centre to better take into account the needs of children with disabilities of Zaruma and its surrounding areas, German Gallardo established an agreement with the Salesians to rent an area of land for fifteen years, on which a welcome centre could be constructed, thanks to financial support from numerous partners of the association.
In November 1994, the association succeeded in collecting the necessary funds to develop the land and construct the centre in which they still develop their activities today. Parallel to the construction of this new space for children with disabilities, APANJEZ acquired legal recognition under Ecuadorian law and became FPANJEZ (Foundation of Parents, Friends, for Exceptional Children and Youth of Zaruma), a non-profit association under Ecuadorian law, a status that it still retains today.
Barrio Don Bosco, Avenida Doctor Carlos Reyes y Marcelo Zambrano, Zaruma, El OroZaruma
Headquarters: +593 (0)7 29 73 374
email@example.com (Association contact)
The couple who originally created the FPANJEZ association, Alexandra Toledo and German Gallardo, are still present within the project and they have both managed the foundation since its creation. With the aim of improving the inclusion of children with disabilities in society, they did not hesitate to frequently approach people within their personal networks so that the association would be better recognised and supported. The team, made up of professionals provided by the Ministry of Education for the council of Zaruma, or directly recruited by the association, put all their professionalism and motivation at the service of the children of the region to offer them an education and care adapted to their development and well-being.
To contribute to the independence of people with disabilities and to improve their standard of life for them in the Zaruma district and it's surrounding areas.
OS1. To promote access to education for children with disabilities.
OS2. To contribute to improving the quality of life and state of health of children with disabilities
OS3. To encourage the independence of people with disabilities.
OS4. To increase public awareness of the importance of adequate consideration towards children with disabilities
1. Educational centre for children with disabilities. The FPANJEZ association hopes that every child with a disability can receive a “classic” quality education in an ordinary school environment. The integration of children with disabilities within an educational centre requires an educational course adapted to the requirements of the child. This is undeniably advantageous to both the child, who will develop their potential and become more independent, and also the other pupils who will become tolerant and respectful for those who are different to them, whether in their physical, or mental capabilities or from a different cultural background.
However, at present it is difficult to find educational structures which welcome children with mental, aural, visual or motor problems in the district and surrounding areas of Zaruma. For this reason, the FPANJEZ association has set up an educational centre where children can receive an education adapted to their situation. Through this project, the association hopes to strengthen the knowledge of each pupil so, eventually; they will be able to integrate within a classic school structure.
2. Care centre for children with disabilities. In order to offer children schooling which is appropriately adapted to their educational and therapeutic needs, the association established a care centre in parallel with their schooling centre. This project which involves personalised treatment for each child is an essential part of the work carried out at an educational level. The schooling centre is organised voluntarily in a flexible and adaptable way so that each child can benefit from therapy adapted to their needs.
3. Improved independence for all children with disabilities. The association established this project to facilitate the integration of teenagers and young people within society. To support their independence, the association has set up numerous workshops (on hygiene, cooking, shopping and managing money), so that these young people can complete all tasks of daily life. Keeping in mind that numerous exterior factors can influence the degree of independence of a person with a disability, whether with a physical disability or not, the professionals of FPANJEZ do everything they can to encourage each child and regularly put them in situations which they are likely to encounter in everyday life.
4. The establishment of workshops aimed at parents. The sharing of daily experiences of parents of children with disabilities with a professional team, enables the creation of a personalised project on the schooling of each child. The association wants to closely involve parents in the choice of their child's curriculum and organise awareness workshops and to help them come out of isolation. The objective of prevention sessions for parents is firstly to learn about their child's disability, understand it and then to establish suitable therapy. Improving the awareness of a child's peer-group to the nature of disability can be helpful in creating a respectful climate which facilitates the integration of people with disabilities into society.
1. Activities linked to OS1. To encourage access to education for children with disabilities.
- Classes which enable children to follow an adapted schooling programme.
- Classes for pupils with hearing and speaking deficiencies.
- The promotion of active integration of children in the “conventional” education process.
- Advice and training for teachers of “classic” schooling institutions in terms of setting up adapted educational tools or adequate space.
2. Activities linked to OS2. To contribute to improving the quality of life and the state of health of children with disabilities
- Organising psychomotor therapy sessions (ultrasound, general movement exercises, physiotherapy for facial paralysis…).
- Organising speech therapy sessions (buccofacial, breathing, relaxation, articulation and vocabulary exercises) to treat articulation, speech, voice, oral and written language and communication problems.
- Hippotherapy. The use of a horses to enable children to develop on a physiological, neurological and organic level. The movement of the horse enables the mind to develop. These resulting movements and sensations are beneficial for persons with physical disabilities.
- Music therapy sessions. Music therapy is a therapy which aims to use music and sound as a support to restore, maintain or improve the social, mental or physical abilities of a person. With sessions lasting 45mins to 1 hour, the music teacher works with the children to awaken recognition of instrumental or natural sounds.
- Early stimulation for children aged between 0 and 5 years enables the child to develop interests and skills such as: following instructions, concentration when carrying out activities, learning social skills, respect for behaviour rules, sensory development, mobility, expressive and comprehensive language.
3. Activities linked to OS3. To encourage the independence of people with disabilities
- To give children learning experiences providing them with development suited to their affective, mental and psychomotor abilities by respecting their progress level.
- To encourage children with special educational needs to use their learning abilities to the maximum and to transfer these skills to difficulties faced in daily life.
- Sessions of behavioural therapy. This activity consists of reproducing situations of daily life (going out, participating in events (sport, cultural…), personal hygiene, cooking workshops…).
- Sessions of art therapy. The association uses dance, theatre and sport to daily stimulate the pupils and help to develop their abilities.
4. Activities linked to OS4. To increase public awareness of the importance of adequate consideration towards children with disabilities
- Undertaking research projects, regarding technical innovations or the prevention of disabilities or.
- Setting up workshops and training for parents of children with disabilities. The association requires parents, at home, to help strengthen the educational and therapeutic work carried out at the institution.
Population directly affected:
50 children and young adults aged between 1 and 30 have benefited from the services of FPANJEZ during 2011/2012. The social and geographic origin of the children and teenagers educated at the school varies greatly, and some even come from very rural areas. Enrolment is free and open to everyone, and not limited by age, condition or financial resources. Due to a shakeup of policies of the INFA, the mission of professionals has changed: until now they were sent to schooling institutions for children with disabilities, while as of the start of term in 2012, they will be called upon to go meet people with disabilities in their own homes. This decision will result in the closing of schools in the Zaruma region. As enrolment for the 2012/2013 school year is still open, FPANJEZ predicts to accommodate about 15 more children this year and the institution has faced the departure of 3 professionals of INFA.
Population indirectly affected.
The actions of FPANJEZ equally benefit the parents of children at the school via training and advice workshops, and indirectly then through their families and people close to them. To maintain good relations with old employees of INFA who have left the structure, an informal partnership will be established. Home visits made by professionals of INFA will improve knowledge of the school and awareness by parents of the institution and the benefits of a “normal” care and education in terms of the social integration of the child.