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  HOME | Central America

How Art Enables the Disabled in Guatemala

GUATEMALA CITY – Some of the disabled youths at Guatemala’s Palestra School for students with special needs dabble in blue and green watercolors to finger-paint their versions of a Christmas card, while others with white and grey brushstrokes paint a picture of the moon.

Painting helps them overcome their limits,” EFE was told by Gloria, a promoter of this innovative educational project that goes beyond training the disabled – it’s a way of transforming society, beginning with the parents, many of whom keep these children isolated.

Which is why Palestra has a “parents’ school” where it teaches families how to offer the kind of care these youngsters need: hygienic habits, sports, nutrition.

“Previously the moms would come pick up their kids and hand them a Coca-Cola,” completely wasting all the efforts to prevent obesity taught during the morning, another coordinator at the school, Ruth de Zenteno, said.

Today, in the small family that makes up Palestra, a scant half-dozen teachers and 20 students, the kids with special needs are taught the importance of “preventing obesity.”

The young teacher Alex Archila was the one who invented a “balanced diet” with a minimum of six glasses of water a day, and a program of physical activities aimed at “improving the motor skills” of the young.

The result was immediate: the students lost weight and showed greater skill at physical activities.

Many of them, like Blanca, a woman fixated on art, “have discovered they can do other things: cooking, equine therapy, gymnastics and painting – painting above all.

Watercolors, tempera, acrylics... any technique is good for students exploring their creativity: “It’s their favorite class,” Gloria said.

For that reason, twice a week the round table in front of the small kitchen becomes an improvised studio where colors are mixed on palettes and small bits or artwork begin to appear.

From simple drawings to more elaborate scenes like landscapes, moons, beaches and horses, the scenes overflow with imagination.

Around 30 of these creations make up the “United by Art through our Hands” exhibition, promoted by Clarissa Herrera Tejera, another collaborator at Palestra thanks to her program of equine therapy.

If allowed to explore, whether with horses or painting, the kids end up finding themselves and discovering that “yes they can create,” Clarissa said. When they do, the evidence of their special talent is there for all to see.

 

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