Community Worker in Ecuador – San Jose de Calasanz Special School and Artisan Training Centre
San Jose is a school and centre for people with disabilities and additional needs, in beautiful Cuenca, Ecuador. San Jose was founded in 1996, as there was a need for a special needs school in Cuenca. Unlike New Zealand, there are not many resources for people with disabilities here, so San Jose was established so students can complete their basic education.
Once they graduate are trained in various different things, such as sewing, baking, woodwork, painting, art, music and ceramics. The students sell the handicrafts that they have made, to help fund the centre. The centre depends upon donations, as it is not state funded, and they always need more volunteers to help their vulnerable students.
The staff and Lattitude community worker volunteers at San Jose are passionate about providing a good education, skills and care to the students, and the centre feels like a family, with students, teachers and volunteers all happy and content. Every student we met on our last visit was beaming with smiles, and happy to show off their work, give out hugs, and pose for photos. We met the director of the school and centre, who was extremely welcoming and impressed with the great work our volunteers do. We were even lucky enough to try some of the bread made by the students at the bakery.
San Jose uses various different teaching techniques, using social life and art as motivations for learning, and also enabling skill and emotional growth of the students. The school expresses that they ‘educate for freedom, for democracy and for equality, respecting the skills of our students,’ and we couldn’t agree more.
We were particularly impressed by the art teacher, who after teaching certain techniques, lets the students freely paint using their own forms and expressions. In each student he highlighted their potential, their personal styles and inner thoughts. He knew them so well, and in that classroom they were not people with disabilities, and additional needs, but artists.
Lattitude volunteers at this placement help within these classes, they look after students during break and lunchtimes, and provide emotional support and care to the students. San Jose desperately needs volunteers to help day to day. If you want to be able to make a real difference, then this is a very worthwhile placement.
You can find more about San Jose de Calasanz here: https://www.institutocalasanz.org/
Former Kiwi volunteer Natasha also wrote extensively about her experience at San Jose de Calasanz here: https://lattitude.org.nz/volunteer-stories/ecuador/
Find out more about our Community Worker and other roles available in wonderful Ecuador