International Child Care (ICC) has been serving children and families in the Dominican Republic since 1987. As many of you may or may not know, in 2012, the Dominican Republic moved up in the World Bank's country classification system. It is now considered an upper middle income developing country. This reclassification has resulted in the loss of major funding for ICC's Dominican programs, theCommunity Based Rehabilitation (CBR) Program and the School Inclusion Program, both of which are crucial to countless disabled children and their families living in Santiago and surrounding areas. While there have been economic improvements in the country, the reclassification does not change the living conditions of the residents in the slum communities we serve, nor does it change the social stigma associated with children with disabilities.
In the Dominican Republic, children with disabilities struggle to be fully integrated into society. They are often seen as an embarrassment to their families, or even as a curse from God. Many are hidden, deprived of food, or abandoned by parents who either don't know how to care for them, or don't want the stigma of having a disabled child. Although Dominican law dictates that these children have the right to go to school, the Ministry of Education has had little success in enforcement. A UN report from 2012 reports that 70% of children living with a disability are not in school. Furthermore, while people with disabilities will face challenges no matter where they live, it is much more difficult to live with disabilities in a country like the Dominican Republic. Geographic and economic barriers make it difficult for most Dominicans to access rehabilitation services, which tend to be institution-based and only affordable to wealthier families.
Last year alone, promotoras from the CBR Program made 3,342 home visits. Rehabilitation services were provided to 130 children with disabilities, 45 girls and 85 boys. To date, the program has reached a total of 1,874 children and their families. Currently, the School Inclusion Program is partnered with two schools in Santiago to make sure that the disabled children enrolled are receiving the attention and help they need to be successful in school. We are fighting to change the stigma associated with disability by hosting community workshops and participating in local events in the Dominican Republic to bring awareness to the reality of what it means to live with a disability.
At ICC, we are proud of the work we are doing in the Dominican Republic and have seen first hand the tremendous difference our programs have made in the lives of the children and families we serve, likeWellington and sisters Yadinay and Jaquelin. However, there are many more children who need our help and deserve the chance to reach their full potential. ICC, and the children living with disabilities in the Dominican Republic, need your help. You can support the Dominican programs and the children in need by becoming an Ambassador for Health, or making a donation. Help ICC change the stigma of disability and help restore hope to children and families who need our support.