Monday, July 6, 2015



Manos Unidas has released its newest video done by Alex Estrada, a Cusco videographer. Our accomplishments over the last seven years are impressive. Enjoy!

Green Thumbs in Cusco


Phawarispa, our young adult program, is making green thumbs out of our students. The 7,500 sq ft garden is producing everything from roses and sunflowers to lettuce, onions and corn. The students work in the garden on a daily basis learning to identify medicinal herbs and plants, watering the flowers, planting seeds and harvesting vegetables.

The goal of the garden is to produce fresh produce that 1) can be sold to our students families to encourage healthy diets and 2) be used to prepare the daily lunch and 3) be sold to hotels in the community.

Phawarispa is in the process of creating partnerships with hotels in the community where are students can eventually work. In the meantime, the hotels will be used as real training sites for our housekeeping module, purchase products from our garden to serve in their cafes/restaurants and hopefully promote our project to its guests.

The Phawarispa house has a large dining room that is being used as a cafe and restaurant for guests. The cafe has been opened to the public several times hosting "Casa Abierta" or "Open House" where our students attend to the public. The goal is through the hotel partnerships, their guests may be interested in a visit to the center where they can either drink an herbal tea from our garden or eat a 3 course meal served by our students.

In the meantime, our students get to experience a touch of nature, healthy living and even get their hands dirty at school.

Mom and Dad are Celebrated in Style


In Cusco we celebrate Mothers Day and Fathers day with quite a flair! Students both at Camino Nuevo and Phawarispa present typical dances from around Peru and create an unforgettable ensemble for families and their guests. 





Dances, food, beverages and poems fill the program and usually ends with an open dance floor with parents grooving to Reggaton music with their children. Fun! 






At Camino Nuevo, students with significant disabilities participated in a creative fable written and produced by our very own teacher, Sandra Medrano and kids in Rosa's class created a reenactment of Perus popular talent program. Students dressed as the judges and presented performances as many celebrities including Justin Beiber! Parents and guests clapped, cheered and recorded theses unforgettable moments. 

We love you mom and dad!

First Year of Kindergarten for 4 MU Students

Leonardo and Juan Carlos with peers at CEIP Piagetano

For the second year in a row Manos Unidas has included 4 of our students into kindergarten. The 4 boys, Leo, Juan, John and Yair,  have attended MU's elementary school, Camino Nuevo since they were 3 years old and have now been integrated into the regular education system. The local private kindergarten, Piagetano, located in the south part of Cusco has become one of our strongest allies for school inclusion. 

Piagetano first received  4 of our students in 2014, accepting our co-teaching model with a Camino Nuevo teacher working full time within the classroom. Manos Unidas held several workshops with school parents and staff to introduce our program, our students and their presence in the school. In the beginning there is always some resistance to our program, -one family even withdrew the child from the school. But that did not stop the schools Director from proceeding with our program, encouraging integration and supporting every level of our relationship. 

MU psychologist, Frida Achaui, also holds workshops with classroom peers using storytelling to teach respect, empathy and friendship to those with differences. Congratulations boys for this new start and thank you Piagetano for your dedication to our students!

The Manos Unidas Inclusion project is currently in 4 public schools in the city of Cusco, currently integrating 25 students. Read more about our Inclusion Project here: http://www.manosunidasperu.net/p/blog-page.html

New Enthusiasm and Talent at Camino Nuevo


Let's face it: the job is not for everyone. It takes a lot of patience and energy to be a special education teacher and our newest addition to the team, Izayda, is a model for all to follow. 

When we interview new staff, some walk right out the door. Others are up for the challenge, eager to learn. Izayda brings a new enthusiasm to Camino Nuevo. Her song and laughter can be heard from outside, her classroom filled with joy and dance. She is always thinking of the most creative ways to teach her 4 year-olds, preparing them to be included into kindergarten the following year. She is a leader and a team player.

In Cusco, there are NO professional opportunities the study special education. All MU teachers are general education teachers who receive an intensive training while working on site. The first few months are very difficult for new teachers. They are working with a totally new population of children and learning at simultaneously how to do it. 

Manos Unidas is constantly changing and modifying its staff training system which includes intensive workshops, in-service learning and in-situ observations throughout the year. Our goal is to create a sustainable training model that can be easily replicated for new staff members each year. 

We welcome new energy like Izayda and hope she has plans to stick around a while! 



Sunday, July 5, 2015

Interconnection Donates 6 Laptops to MU



Interconnection,, a Seattle based non-profit that recycles computers and laptops and then donates them to worthy causes, donated 6 laptops to Manos Unidas this year. MU was the focus of their charity event in October of 2014 where MU co-founder, Celeste Marion, gave a live presentation about how this technology could support MU students.

MU previously only had 2 laptops to serve its entire administration team as well as students so this donation has been very helpful. Laptops are being used to incorporate multi-media within lesson plans, teach beginning word processing skills and basic communication skills.

Thank you Interconnection!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Fellowship Lunch for 4 Public Schools

23 guests of MU Inclusion Program are waited on by MU youth


Manos Unidas' school inclusion program is now in 3 public schools and 1 private kindergarten in Cusco, currently including 23 MU students into the regular education system. Five MU school teachers work full time within these schools supporting our students and facilitating our program. 

Our big goal this year was to unite MU staff and ALL regular education school teachers and directors. What was the best way to do this? A great meal! MU youth in our vocational training program helped serve a 4 course meal to 23 teachers who came to listen to a presentation about our program and take away 3 techniques that will best assist the inclusion of our students in their classrooms. 

It was a fantastic day with a great opportunity for teachers and directors alike to collaborate, unite and feel part of the biggest movement in Cusco to include children with special needs within the regular education system. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

First Open House for Phawarispa


PH student Irene takes orders from guests in Cafe Daria

Phawarispa, a Cynthia Caceres Baker Project, is the FIRST and ONLY vocational training center for young adults in the region of Cusco. Launched last April, Phawarispa is now attending to 20 students, preparing them for vocational placements within the community.

Guests purchase organic products from our garden
The center has its own Cafe to train students how to work in restaurants; a kitchen, a hotel room classrooms and a huge garden. All spaces are preparing students for future jobs.

Friday, April 10, Phawarispa held its first "Open House" for the community. Our students attended to customers in Cafe Daria, practiced hospitality skills with guests and sold vegetables from our organic garden. 

 Our students received more than 70 guests! Incredible!

Last year we ran a fundraising campaign to equip the new school and launch the program- THIS YEAR WE ARE RAISING FUNDS TO SHOW THE COMMUNITY OUR STUDENTS CAN WORK. If you donated in the past, its a great time to donate again- you can see your dollars at work and know they are changing lives. You can donate on the Crowdrise link to the right of this post. 

Its exciting to see such a grand dream finally come to life! 

-Celeste Marion
Co-Founder/Executive Director
Manos Unidas Peru/ Manos Unidas International

Thursday, March 26, 2015

World Autism Awareness Day



Manos Unidas is celebrating World Autism Awareness Day, April 2, in the city of Cusco together with hundreds of other friends, children, parents, professionals and colleagues in the region. 

We will be participating in the many events during the month of April including our first OPEN HOUSE for Phawarispa where our students will be attending to guests, serving them coffee and cake and selling organic products from our garden. We welcome the community to come and witness how young adults with disabilities CAN work and WILL BE active working members of society.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

“Outliers"

A Personal Message from Manos Unidas International Board Chairman

 
The other day it hit me that I really, really hate thinking about fitting in with other people or [gasp] being average.  I take pride in not only thinking differently, but truly living differently.  I always want to be an outlier.  

Traveling to Peru last year, I was lucky enough to meet another outlier, Celeste Marion. Landing in Peru in 2004, I like to think Celeste went down there to volunteer her time, gain some hands on experience and frankly checkout a cool country.  Hit with brutal reality that special education is barely a thought in Peru let alone an afterthought, Celeste reacted differently than the average person.  Most people would have accepted that is a reality for all third world countries and returned home after finishing her volunteer stint.  Eleven years later, Celeste has spent almost a third of her life fighting tooth and nail for every student and each penny she needed to make Manos Unidas Peru what it is today.

Last September I flew to Seattle to join Manos Unidas' new 501(c)3, Manos Unidas International.  As the newly elected chairman of MUI, I am glad to say I fit in with Celeste and our new board.  She called me the other day and said was surprised how big Manos Unidas Peru had become and she did not know how it happened.  Laughing, I told her that she was the reason it got so big.  An outlier unwilling to accept the status quo, Celeste is now my favorite outlier.

Think you are an outlier?  We are recruiting outliers to join the MUI board.  We are 9.  I want 21.  Join us"

Lawson Baker
Board Chairman
Manos Unidas International