This I Believe

Sydney - Santa Barbara, California
Entered on February 9, 2007

I Believe In Mirna

I believe that special needs children in third world countries should have the same educational opportunities as regular students. This may seem like a simple idea, but in other countries, many of the children don’t have the same opportunities.

Last summer, I went to Santa María de Jesús, a town six miles outside of the bigger city of Antigua in Guatemala. This town is consistently one of the highest crime and poverty towns in Guatemala. I never knew from looking at this town of 18,000 covering the side of a mountain the amount of poverty and hurt that is hidden there. I went to Guatemala to work at a school called Nueva Vida or “New Life.” Students with disabilities, both mental and physical, go here. Before this school was founded in 2000, there was no place for disabled children to go to school. They were hidden away in homes because their parents were ashamed of their own children. A woman named Judy founded the school by going door to door asking families if they had any children who would be good for Nueva Vida. The first year there were only eight kids, but each year the school grew. Now there are 43 students!

These students are just as smart and capable as regular students; they just express themselves in different ways. These tiny children can teach up so much. Just teaching them the game of “Pato, Pato, Ganzo” or “Duck, Duck, Goose” I learned so much from these kids. There were two children in wheelchairs. One was named Mirna, a girl who has more joy and happiness than most children do. She has cerebral palsy, but never let that get her down. If one of them got picked to be the “ganzo,” the person next to them, without being asked, would immediately get up and push them around the circle. The person who tagged them would also run slower so as to give the wheelchair-bound student a chance to get runner. Instead of racing around the circle, they looked after one another and thought of the feelings of the other children. I took an amazing lesson from these innocent children. By helping Mirna and basically anyone, people can grow and learn and have just as much fun without having to prove that they are better than the others. Although I went to help these children, they ended up helping and teaching me so much more than I even thought possible. All the children wanted were for us to love them and acknowledge them as people with valid ideas and opinions.

The opportunities these children like Mirna are given are nothing like the opportunities that special needs students in the United States have. They don’t have programs where they can help in stores; they don’t have the resources to live in communities with other special needs students as people in the U.S. have; they don’t have much but each other. Basically I believe in children like Mirna.