"As someone who had already lived, worked, and learned abroad in multiple countries, I was very excited for the Manos Unidas trip, but didn't realize that it would offer something brand new for me personally or professionally. I am happy to say, this trip exceeded my expectations in every way and I emerged feeling good about the realistic input and guidance we gave to communities and families, and also feeling that I would be a better special education teacher when I returned back home.
Working as an interdisciplinary team, we were able to address the nuanced, multifaceted challenges of living with a disability in a unique way that I have never witnessed; we could listen to students, families and teachers carefully and empathetically and give tangible guidance that addressed their concerns, on everything from generalizing skills to home to conducting preference assessments and making wheelchair adjustments. Most importantly, we were able to leave tailored tools in the form of IEP guidelines, suggestions for support groups and vocational training, speech aids, and a multitude of other resources that would have a real impact and that were individualized to each student, based on the concerns and priorities we heard firsthand from them.
This wouldn't have been possible without the breadth of knowledge and experience across our team. I left in awe of my colleagues, who taught me so much about improving the whole quality of life and building sustainable programs. Of course, my Spanish skills and my ability to adjust and live in an unfamiliar environment also skyrocketed, and I formed strong friendships and a deep love for Peru. I have pictures documenting both the thorough, team-based approach and commitment we brought to each student, as well as the fun I had.
I would recommend anyone who works in disability advocacy to take a trip with Celeste!" ~ Mallika Iyer, Peru Volunteer Trip 2023