New Adolescent Program Builds Social Skills in Dominican Republic

Stumble into one of the four new adolescent groups in the ICC Dominican Republic’s Community Inclusion Program, and you’ll see teens with disabilities working through simple math problems, learning to recognize and draw different shapes, or sounding out words such as “mama” and “papa.” You may find a few practicing fine motor skills by threading a string through a toy, or you may see them working together as a team to play a game, clapping and cheering on each of their peers—regardless if they “win” or “lose.” If you’re lucky and happen upon the group Estarlin Ortiz is in, you may even catch a glimpse of his Michael Jackson impression and dance moves.

Estarlin has been working with promotoras with FCID (ICC Dominican Republic) for two years now in the home visitaiont program, and ICC DR’s National Director Trudy Bekker says that he has made great strides in improving his social skills and patience by now being in the adolescent group. He is often found helping out his friends, and his language is improving now that he is in a group where he can talk to others more often. If his peers don’t understand him, he will work harder to speak well.

“I joined the program to do more for myself,” Estarlin told us. And later, he sweetly said, “When God says ‘You need to love me,’ he means you need to love others, too.”

We wholeheartedly agree, Estarlin. The new adolescent groups started in January 2016 as part of the Community Inclusion Program. Meeting twice a week for four hours at a time, adolescents have a chance to build on the skills they may already have and learn new ones that may allow them to seek employment later down the line. For many, this is the closest to any type of schooling they will receive. What’s also essential to these groups is the social interaction. They learn to interact with their peers through conversation and team building activities. It’s great to see how they encourage each other and interact.

Katherine, a twenty-three-year-old, joined an adolescent group just last month, and she’s already made many new friends and practiced reading. She loves to use her skills in reading for her favorite book: the Bible. And one of the highlights of her year is participating in the Walk for the Inclusion of People with Disabilities, describing it as an “unforgettable experience.”

Although she was in an adolescent group run by volunteers for two years before now, she dropped out at the end of last year because she didn’t have the transportation any more.

The adolescent group she attends now is walking distance from her house, an important factor that FCID always considers when placing students for safety but also so they can be active in their own community.

“Without this program, students like Estarlin may just be wandering the streets and could get into criminal groups,” Trudy comments.

Students like Estarlin who benefit from the children’s home visits can then “graduate” into the adolescent program as an important form of continued education and support. The list of important reasons this program exists, of course, could go on and on. And although the family is charged only a small amount each month (which only covers the costs of snacks and drinks during the sessions), many can’t even afford that. Yet, ICC always makes sure they can keep coming back. To help support this program and these young adults, donate through our online donation page or send a check and indicate it is for the “Dominican Republic adolescent program.” Thanks to your continued support, these young adults can receive continued support!