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Our History

(2007) - (2020)

Manos Unidas International exclusively supported Manos Unidas Peru for 13 years. Our achievements in delivering quality student education, teacher training and opportunities for community inclusion were phenomenal and started a movement that paved the way for 200+ students and the future of those to come.

Manos Unidas International has a unique history of global impact and influence.

Founded in 2014 by Celeste Marion, her father and a friend, MUI was originally created as a fundraising arm for Manos Unidas Peru, a Peruvian-based non-profit school for special education (2007-2020). 

Manos Unidas Peru (Cusco, Peru) was founded in 2008 by Mercedes Delgado (Cusco, Peru) and Celeste Marion (Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.) Celeste arrived in Cusco, Peru in 2004 as a volunteer at a rural school for special needs children after six years of specializing in autism related education within the United States. There she met Mercedes, a local school teacher of ten years at the state school for special education in Cusco. By combining their experience, knowledge and what few resources they had at the time, Mercedes and Celeste began Manos Unidas in Mercedes’ living room with 2 students as an after school tutoring program. Over a short time, their reputation of delivering quality education grew and more families were knocking at the door.



Manos Unidas Peru’s achievements:
  • CEBEP “Camino Nuevo” the first and only non-profit special education school in Cusco (est. 2009)

  • The Inclusion Project for children in general education classrooms (est. 2011)

  • “Phawarispa” vocational training program (est. 2014)

  • Cafe Manos Unidas, a job training site for youth with special needs (est. 2018)

The two professionals persevered through many obstacles in order to create a highly successful regional program with the mission of including individuals with intellectual disabilities into the education system and workplaces within Cusco. Over the 10 years Manos Unidas operated at capacity, the organization educated 200+ children between 3-25 years old, managed a staff of 40 local professionals and impacted the lives of approximately 1,000 people including families, student peers, educators and community members. Their focus was on three major areas: Quality student education, teacher training and parent outreach.

The global pandemic devastated Manos Unidas Peru and CEBEP Camino Nuevo in many ways. As a result of missing two full school years and being forced into virtual education, Camino Nuevo’s attrition was almost 80%. Families were not able to prioritize their children with special needs during Peru’s health and economic crisis with one of the highest death rates in the world. MUP lost the contract on the prime school location and 80% of staff were permanently laid off. Manos Unidas International was not able to secure funding to support 100% of operations during this non-revenue generating time. MUP had to make some very hard decisions. 

Today (2022), MUP operates completely independently of Manos Unidas international. Led by its co-founder, Mercedes, Camino Nuevo is  located in the Cusco city center with approximately 20 students and a small team of teachers who remain. The goal is for the school to be self-sustaining through student tuition and grow its programs once again. 

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Camino Nuevo (2009)

Manos Unidas Peru founded Centro de Educación Básica Especial Particular “Camino Nuevo” (2009) as the first private/non-profit special education school in the region of Cusco and only 2nd of it’s kind in Peru. The mission is to provide quality education to all children regardless of their ability to pay.

Camino Nuevo served children with significant and moderate intellectual and developmental disabilities with a concentrated focus on the education of children on the autism spectrum. CN used ABA and TEACCH strategies within the classroom and focused on intensive teacher training, classroom management and instructional delivery. 

Camino Nuevo also ran a community-based teen transition program for students 13-17 years old. The program held an inclusive focus, using the community as a classroom where 60% of the activities took place in natural context environments and incorporated typically developing peers and community members within daily activities.

Camino Nuevo also organized many community awareness events to improve the knowledge of Autism in the community such as World Autism Awareness Day.

The Autism Education Program was funded by the Bungie Foundation and partnered with Alcanzando (Lima, Peru) to provide educational services based on Applied Behavior Analysis through teacher training and continued supervision.

Inclusive Education Program (2011)

Manos Unidas’ goal was to prepare students to the best of their ability to be included within regular education classrooms based on their chronological age. 27 students 4-15 years old attended school in a non-segregated educational environment where they received quality, personalized education based on their abilities and learned alongside same-aged typically developing peers.

The goal was to extinguish false beliefs, segregation, discrimination and isolation of children with special needs in Peruvian society by educating members of the education community (teachers, parents, and peers) through a variety of interactive workshops based on best inclusive education practices. MU inclusive classrooms were also practicum sites for local education and psychology students.

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The link between students in the educational setting and their integration into society through work experience and employment.

Phawarispa, a vocational training program, was a Dr. Cynthia project founded in 2014. The program was directed at adolescents and young adults with intellectual disabilities graduating from regular or special education schools to prepare them for job training and work inclusion in the community.

It was our goal and duty to create meaningful livelihoods for this population of students so they may become contributing members to their families and the society.

The Vocational Training program was an INCLUSIVE program operating in the vocational training school Inca Educa, offering certified  preparation for Housekeeping, Bakery and Bar and Dining Room service.  The program supported students for independent or supported employment based on skill level. 

The Functional Life Skills program was directed at teens and youth 13-25 years old with significant disabilities to teach them independent skills that will contribute towards their home and community environment. Students also assumed responsibilities within the school setting, participated in community outings and projects in the organic garden.

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Manos Unidas Cafe (2018) 

Job Training Site for Exceptional Youth 

Manos Unidas Cafe was an inclusive work environment that provided young people with disabilities vocational training and first job experience to increase future employability.

The cafe provided Job Skills Training for 20+ youth in the community, Community Awareness workshops for local businesses  and a successful inclusive employment model to improve chances of future employability for our youth. 

Located in the historical Cusco city center on the walking tour trail, Cafe Manos Unidas was a tourist destination. The cafe worked in partnership with many travel agencies, providing opportunities for community immersion and social causes while traveling and provided the youth with a steady clientele. Cusco’s #1 choice on Tripadvisor for 2019.

The goal was to extinguish false beliefs, segregation, discrimination and isolation of youth with special needs in Peruvian society by giving employment opportunities and modeling inclusive employment for other businesses in the community.


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Manos Unidas Peru 2015

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