The International Undergraduate Journal For Service-Learning, Leadership, and Social Change


In the Ixil Region of Guatemala’s Quiché Department, there is social stigma against people with physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities. Parents of children with special needs are often ashamed of their children and reluctant to take them outside or send them to school. Worldwide, children with disabilities are less likely to attend school, receive academic support to attain educational goals, and to experience familial and emotional support that increase quality of life. A similar lack of support for children with disabilities in Guatemala perpetuates their lack of access to opportunities for academic, social, and professional development, which contributes to stereotypes that people with disabilities cannot make valuable contributions to society. In 2002, Elena Ceto, Daria Guzmán, and Jacinta Ceto founded La Escuela Oficial de Educación Especial (colloquially La Escuela Especial) to address the need for a special education program in the Nebaj municipality (population 23,301 ). In 2005, Don Langley co-founded Mayan Hope with Jacinta and Daria to provide financial and organizational support for the school, which has since secured contracts for its teachers from the MINEDUC and serves over 30 students with learning and physical disabilities, of all grades, most of whom return each year. Mayan Hope’s ultimate goal is to have the school be entirely sustained by the municipal and national governments. La Escuela Especial remains the only one of its kind in the region.



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