In May 1995, under the leadership of Jorge Saavedra Nunez and Eliana Palma of Saavedra, the medical-educational center Melvin Jones was officially created in the city of La Libertad, located in the province of Santa Elena, in southwest of Ecuador.
The perception of disability was very negative at this time; any child with a physical or mental handicap endured a heavy moral and social stigma that accompanied such a situation. The child’s family often suffered the effects of this vicious circle and the child found himself isolated and without access to care or quality education.
Aware that this perception of disability is linked to a misunderstanding of the latter, those involved in the center Melvin Jones have decided to take action to raise public awareness and bring together as many players around their project. (parents, faculty members, politicians, local civil society etc...).
To achieve the goal, the center has implemented outreach meetings involving people directly or indirectly affected by disability, in order to have a clear view of activities to implement.
Following these meetings, the center Melvin Jones has decided to support families with disabled children, with community care and a series of projects aimed at integrating the child in society .
Melvin Jones provides the children of these families, usually low-income, with school quality monitoring as well as appropriate vocational training facilitating their integration into the labor market.
In parallel to this substantive work, the organization’s founders, management and professionals deliver daily awareness-raising sessions at various civil society bodies, in order to increase consideration and insertion of people with disabilities within the society.
Numerous actions implemented in terms of education, vocational training and care, have improved the welfare recipients and have helped them gain autonomy.
Welcomes people with disabilities, generally from low-income families and offer them the opportunity to follow a tailored academic course, receive therapeutic care and professional education.
On 15th November, the Leones Salinas central club organised a Bingo night in support of the Melvin Jones Centre. The night was held at the centre – 600 people attended including many artists invited by Spondylus and the Melvin Jones students, such as the talented music group from the centre itself. This type of event allows the centre to expand their activities.
In fact, in additon to putting on classes and therapy for children and young people with disabilities, Melvin Jones also provides training and sessions to raise awareness. For example, in October, 20 children from the Escuela Fiscal Mixta Jose Pedro Varela attended a sign language class with the Melvin Jones language therapist. This school is mixed in that they have both able bodied and disabled students – a classmate of the students attending the workshop has a hearing impairment.
Another activity Melvin Jones undertakes is the monitoring of children and young people with disabilities within thir own homes – the aim is to improve their quality of life as part of the Project with MIES, which was confirmed just a short time ago. The activities taking place as part of this initiative include: evaluation of each child to get to know thm and monitor their progress, physiotherapy, education, medical support, routine daily activities, nutrition and diet advice, workshops with mothers to help them get an income (topics include bread making, painting, recycling and jewellery making).
Translated by Elizabeth Brook
On Monday 27th October, children and young people from the Melvin Jones education centre, together with their teachers, started the week with a visit to the palaeontology museum at the University of the Santa Elena peninsula. The university students had developed a visitor programme especially for people with disabilities, the same programme that the young people from Melvin Jones were invited to sample. The children and young people from the Melvin Jones centre enjoyed a guided tour and educational films – all for free.
In other news, seven teachers have been taking part for the last six weeks in a Braille course at the Polytechnic University of Salesiana. Up till now, just one teacher has mastered the language. We are delighted with this news !
Translated by Elizabeth Brook
Officially celebrated on 1 June in Ecuador, International Childhood Day came a little early at the Melvin Jones centre, La Libertad. In other words, Juanita Chumo, the centre director, and her dedicated staff couldn't bear to spend only a single day on all the activities they had planned for the occasion.
So the festivities began on Thursday 30 May at 9 am. And what a beginning! The Mayor of La Libertad in person played host to five of the centre's beneficiaries for an offical breakfast.
The five guests were representative of each of the types of handicap treated by the centre: motor, visual, auditory, psychological and mental handicap. Each one a symbol. And each person took the opportunity to describe the problems they face before taking a guided tour of the municipal premises.
After this very serious morning, the pressure was taken off our five representatives. They joined the other beneficiaries and the centre's teachers for a relaxing afternoon at the cinema. And even here education was the theme; the activity was aimed at teaching young people to respect road signs, to obey instructions and in a general manner how to interact socially.
The following day, the whole of the Melvin Jones team was present at the centre. Pupils from the Libertad College came to participate in the event, together with members of the Lions Club and a handful of journalists who were curious about the gathering. Including students, their families, teachers and other guests, nearly 200 people were present for this festive afternoon. And what a party it was! First of all, the pupils of the nearby high school gave a dressed up representation, with songs and choreographies in which participate the pupils of Melvin Jones.
Then came the dance competitions involving parents and teachers, to a lively background of salsa and cumbia music. Then the beneficiaries got involved, accompanied by their able-bodied friends from the Libertad college, to remind everyone that dancing isn't about an "able/disabled" distinction. By this time the rhythms were infectious. So much so that our friends from the Super newspaper got up themselves to try out a few (clumsy) salsa steps!
Without a shadow of a doubt, these two days will remain in the memories of all those who were lucky enough to be present. They were two days of perfect communion between adolescents and adults, parents and teachers, able-bodied and disabled.
A word to the wise…
Cerezal Bellavista School is an experimental agricultural school. It currently educates around 170 children; some of these are boarders. It has been open for three years, and it runs on an educational model inspired by Zamorano Agricultural University in Honduras.
In Cerezal Bellavista, the children “learn by doing”. Lessons are confined to the morning. In the afternoon, in groups, with the help of an agricultural engineer, the children take part in agricultural activities.
After a tour of the school buildings and grounds, Juanita Chumo, the Director of Melvin Jones Center, Mariela Ortega, a psychologist, and Rebecca Labrador, a volunteer from UODP, delivered some training on inclusive education to teachers at the school. The goal of this training was to raise awareness among teachers about classroom habits which would guarantee equality of rights and opportunity for all children who have a disability and/or are in some way vulnerable.
Here is what Rebecca had to say about this training:
“Even though the school has not yet taken in any children with a disability, the short-term goal was to enable the school to offer inclusive education. For example, in two months’ time, the new school buildings will be finished, and equipped with access ramps.”
“The teachers were very interested and motivated to learn. Juanito Chumo left various training documentation with them so that they could further develop the methods they were taught.”
The team from Melvin Jones have a proven track record of delivering training of this kind. Hundreds of teachers from around Manabí have already benefited from their expertise. When it comes to spreading the model of inclusive education, Melvin Jones is a highly-valued partner to the Ecuadorian Ministry of Education.
Dignity, respect and decency were just some of the demands emblazoned on placards in a procession that kicked off this IDPWD. The fourteen associations and their beneficiaries marched through the streets of Santa Elena, accompanied by the Eugenio Espejo high school music group who came to lend their support.
After the parade, all the attendees gathered around the big central stage in the Parc Rocafuerte, which was given over to a series of different artistic performances throughout the morning. So it was that five young girls with hearing disabilities, all pupils at the Melvin Jones school, presented their choreography set to tropical, infectious music... and yet most of them couldn't hear even a note of it. The illusion was perfect, the girls' steps in rhythm. And the applause, fed by the 150-strong audience, showed that the public fully grasped the reality of the performance.
At the side of the stage there were also stands where the associations highlighted another of their pupils' capabilities: manual creations. Melvin Jones exhibited a range of artistic objects, such as decorative boxes made of papier mâché, and confectionery, also the handiwork of the association's beneficiaries.
The final word was spoken through the mic by a young girl suffering from impaired mobility: "We can create and produce things too, and we deserve proper attention from society!" And if this reminder was needed before, there's now no doubt that she's right.
The reason for the creation of this workshop is the health situation of children affected by cerebral palsy and other associated disabilities.
The workshop was conducted with a group of ten mothers, and focused on improving their self-esteem. To do so, we practiced relaxation techniques and devoted time to listening to our feelings and emotions, reflecting on how our lives have been with our children, and the impact on our families.
The group of mothers, who attend the centre for physical therapies and stimulation, face many obstacles in their daily lives, amongst them the health of their children, the lack of support for their families, inadequate medical attention and difficulties in relating to their surroundings. All this amounts to a heavy burden resting on these women.
During the workshop, the women expressed the love which drives them to carry on for their children, this immense love which comes from a superior source to which the women turn day after day: from God, who gives them strength to keep on fighting for the progress of their children. The workshop also provided an opportunity for women to exchange experiences with other mothers, who have older children, and to discover that they share the same values, such as hope, patience, tolerance, responsibility, joy and above all, love.
The participants made posters displaying these values to share with their families. Now, they take part in the therapies and have become more willing and expressive, with the promise to return in the future for another workshop.
Melvin Jones center is located in La Libertad to the west of the province of Santa Elena. La Libertad is a city in southwestern Ecuador, capital of La Libertad district, located 110 kilometers from Guayaquil, which is the economic capital of the country.
At the head of a district of 95 942 inhabitants (according to the census conducted in 2010 by the national institute of statistics and censuses) La Libertad is the economic capital of the region due to employments generated by the fishing and oil industries.
Aware of the fact that many families with disabled children were in a vulnerable situation, Mr Jorge Núñez Saavedra, then-president of the Lions Club of Salinas-Central, proposed a motion to establish a support centre for their benefit. This motion having been approved, contacts were then established with the Guayas provincial department of the Ministry of Education in order to raise awareness with the staff about disability issues in the region.
This then led to a census which was undertaken to quantify the number of children with disabilities in the area, something had never previously been done. This census also aimed to identify the potential of a structure that could accommodate future beneficiaries, raise awareness among the population regarding disability issues, and reach out to parents about the importance of supporting quality education for their children.
In 1994, the census confirmed the urgent need to establish such a structure. It was also decided that the structure should also cater for families with few economic resources.
Recognizing the importance of gaining support among the many stakeholders around this project, outreach meetings involving people directly or indirectly affected by disabilities were held in order to have a clear view of activities to implement.
On May 8, 1995, the Melvin Jones Centre officially became a nonprofit institution under Ecuadorian law, under the patronage of the Ministry of Education. This recognition as a legally incorporated structure will allow it to start its activities and welcome children, which was not previously possible for legal reasons.
The first activity was set up at the home of one of the members of the Lions Club of Salinas-Central in preparation for supporting children with hearing loss issues.
Soon thereafter, support workshops designed for children with developmental handicaps or palsy were established. In 2000, it was decided that the area that was provided to the centre by the Lions Club of Salinas-Central to carry out its activities was too small and crowded. The NGO thus soon considered a proposal to build a more spacious and ergonomic facility that could welcome a larger number of children.
Led by Jorge Núñez Saavedra and Eliana Palma de Saavedra, the municipality of La Libertad (who donated the land) and with the financial support of the German NGO Guayas Ecuador Hilfe, this construction project went ahead. The new facility, which opened on July 20, 2002, still stands today and offers children academic coaching, healthcare services, and training to accompany young adults into the workplace.
In 1995, the centre catered for 28 children. Now, Melvin Jones receives 177 children every day, as well as a number of occasional visitors. The centre asks parents for a contribution so that they can be involved in the education process developed for their children.
Featuring today a structure adapted to the needs of its beneficiaries, the centre has always aimed to improve its services vis-à-vis the children it welcomes, but also to transfer its methodology to civil society and notably to teachers in the public school system through regular training sessions.
Barrio 28 de Mayo, Av 16, entre calles 13 y 14, La Libertad, Santa Elena, EcuadorLa Libertad
Reception: +593 (0)4 27 82 744
Juanita Chumo de Tamayo, director: + 593 (0)4 27 84 290 / + 593 (0)9 87 25 197
Eliana de Palma, president : + 593 (0)4 27 83 969 / + 593 (0)9 34 50 236
Carmen Olives, secretary: + 593 (0)4 27 74 117 / + 593 (0)9 41 70 925
The founding members of the centre in 1995 are still present today within the structure. Their respective roles have not changed much, even though currently they can count on their very competent staff, which allows the centre to function well. The team is committed and united behind the goals set by the centre. It is open to any external support that could enable it to develop new activities.
Contribute to the well-being and autonomy of people with disabilities
SG1. Promote access to education for children with disabilities.
SG2. Improve the quality of life and health status of children with disabilities.
SG3. Improve the autonomy of people with disabilities.
SG4. Facilitate the professional integration of youth and young adult beneficiaries from the centre.
SG5. Reach out to other children with disabilities not catered for the by the Centre about the importance of receiving special needs assistance.
1. Care centre for children with disabilities. The objective is to provide children with healthcare that is adapted to their individual situation. This involves a technical team with diverse skills to provide the most comprehensive level of monitoring possible and improve the well-being to each child. The Melvin Jones Centre develops activities organised around the needs of the child and his/her family with the view of improving his/her long-term well-being. Melvin Jones seeks primarily to facilitate the integration of children with disabilities and reduce the social disadvantages they may face. This project is based on the idea that children with disabilities can attend the same social integration as children without disabilities. The objective is to ensure that children with disabilities and their families become take an active part in the decisions that involve them and are integrated into the community.
2. Accompanying beneficiaries in the professional world. Melvin Jones considers that the acceptance of difference is not something that can be taken for granted and it is important to work on raising awareness among civil society actors on the phenomenon of disability and its implications. Besides raising awareness, the centre sets up a series of professional training workshops to help recipients become fully integrated into society and develop themselves. The centre tries to instill in all its educators, teachers, therapists, staff and parents of students that it is very important to accompany the child throughout his or her professional integration. This process consists of three phases: orientation, training and integration. Each phase is considered as an element necessary for the preparation to the next phase.
3. Access to autonomy for disabled children. The association organises various workshops to facilitate integration and access to the autonomy of adolescents and young adults. These workshops address aspects of everyday life through simple but routine tasks (cooking, domestic chores, shopping...). Assuming that many external factors are influencing the degree of autonomy of the person with a disability (physical or not), the staff of the centre tries to the upmost for each child to be simulated and frequently confronted to daily life situations.
4. Awareness workshops destined for civil society. The Centre set up awareness workshops for public education teachers in the province of Santa Elena so that they can improve the integration of children with disabilities in their classrooms. Parents of disabled children also benefit from training sessions. Along with the technical team, they construct appropriate programs and a personalised plan of education specific to each child. The association wishes to raise awareness for society as a whole, through awareness and support workshops so that the phenomenon of disability becomes more acceptable and considered.
1. Activities related to SG1 (promote access to education for children with disabilities):
- providing courses adapted to handicaps of each child attending the Center
• providing courses for students affected with hearing loss issues
• providing training on working with computers.
2. Activities related to SG2 (improve the quality of life and health status of children with disabilities):
• physiotherapy sessions which aim to assess, restore and maintain the physical functions of each individual (paraffin equipment, pacemaker, parallel bars, hot and cold compresses, infrared); audiometry;
• counseling sessions that encourage the child with special learning needs to maximise his or her ability to learn and transfer it to the problems encountered in daily life.
• Speech therapy sessions to treat joint disorders, speech, voice, the spoken and written language, and those of communication.
3. Activities related to SG3 (improve the autonomy of people with disabilities):
• behavioural therapy sessions. This activity is to replicate situations of everyday life (outings, participation in events (sporting, cultural...), personal hygiene, cooking workshop...)
• occupational therapy sessions conducted in a domestic-workshop space where beneficiaries learn to perform various chores.
4. Activities related to SG4 (facilitate the professional integration of youth and young adult beneficiaries from the centre)
- cloth work;
• handicrafts (creating works out of papier-mâché, making rag dolls...);
• baking workshop;
• training for the aesthetic jobs (hairdresser, manicures).
5. Activities related to SS5 (reach out to other children with disabilities not catered for the by the Centre about the importance of receiving special needs assistance):
• providing advice and training for teachers of the public education schools in terms of establishing appropriate educational tools or adapted spaces;
• awareness sessions for parents regarding the needs of inclusive education for children with special needs.
Directly affected population:
177 children, adolescents and adults, aged between 1 and 45, benefit from the activities developed by the Melvin Jones Centre. The social and geographical origin of children and adolescents enrolled in school is very diverse. The Center is the only one of its kind in the township of La Libertad, and some families who live far away from the structure do not hesitate to make long journeys for the welfare of their children. Registration is open to all, regardless of age or condition of economic resources. Financial participation, even symbolic, however, is required for all families so that they are fully invested in the education project of their child undertaken at the Melvin Jones Centre.
Population affected indirectly:
The action of Melvin Jones also benefits parents of school children through training workshops, advice or field visits by staff working within or in partnership with Melvin Jones. No studies have been conducted specifically to determine the impact of the Center on the wider community and the affected population is difficult to identify. Meetings within and outside the structure, training sessions for teachers from neighbouring schools, events conducted within the structure can reach a large number of people without being able to advance a specific figure. Finally, there are all those who, while not receiving direct training, are aware of the problems treated, through the centre’s radio ads, posters, flyers and via their participation in roundtables training.