In 1996, Puntiti reached an agreement with the Bolivian government to provide social services to orphans and abandoned children with severe special needs. It initially received twenty children with mental and physical needs but has grown to serve 140 youths between four and twenty-five years old. As of today, it is one of a few institutions operating in Bolivia with residential services.
The main goal of Puntiti is to offer rehabilitation services and special education to young people with special needs. More often than not, these children are orphans or have been abandoned, so special care is taken to provide familial conditions and a safe environment in which the children may grow. Puntiti offers medical assistance of the highest standard and strives to offer the children the opportunity to live independent and dignified lives.
Who does Puntiti help?
Puntiti works with young people up to age thirty who suffer from severe mental and physical disorders such as cerebral palsy, spinal bifida, mental retardation, autism and epilepsy.
The Puntiti center is located close to the main road to Sacaba, a twenty minute bus ride from Cochabamba. The center has a multi-disciplinary staff of approximately 60, which includes teachers, doctors, social workers, psychologists, nurses, physiotherapists, and administrative staff.
The Puntiti Health Program provides healthcare for over sixty children between four and eighteen years old, all of whom live at the center. Services include bathing, personal hygiene, dressing, nutrition, mobility, administration of medication, as well as physical, occupational, and language therapies.
The Puntiti Educational Program provides academic instruction and support for 100 students, all of whom suffer from moderate to severe developmental needs. San Benito Meni Special Educational School recently opened a class for students with autism, the only class of its nature in Bolivia. The center offers the children breakfast and lunch daily and also runs an afternoon workshop where the children make greeting cards, jewelry, and notebooks by hand. These items are sold to the public in order to generate funds.
The Community Outreach Program:
The Community Outreach Program educates the families of disabled children about developmental special needs and emphasizes that, although dealing with such needs may be tough, a healthy quality of life is attainable. Beyond families, the program strives to educate the community, hoping to foster an environment of understanding and acceptance for those who have special needs.
Volunteer/ Internship requirements:
- Intermediate Spanish
- Motivated and patient
- Willingness to work with children with special needs
- High tolerance in stressful situations
- Special education teachers, art teachers, and those trained in special needs services (desired but not required)
- Experience in pediatrics, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, or psychology (desired but not required)
- Two month commitment period