We’re just back from visiting weavers around Lake Atitlan and I wanted to share the inspiring story of ADISA (Associacion de Padres y Amigos de Personas Discapacidad Santiago Atitlan). One part of the larger organization is a group of artisans made up of members with special needs and big hearts known as Artesanos ADISA.
ADISA was created from the experiences of Francisco Sojuel Figueroa, his wife María Argentina Figueroa, and the birth of their third child, Nyla Eliza. Their daughter was born with hydrocephalus, a condition of water on the brain causing the head to enlarge. She underwent several operations and as a result contracted meningitis, which left huge side effects and multiple disabilities.
"In 1998 we formed ADISA and we began working with the children on the weekends. We did all the legal work to obtain placements for Special Education, we contacted neurologists and physiotherapists, and we began to get offers from people wishing to volunteer and our children began in mainstream schools.
"However, on the first of July of that same year, our beloved Nyla Eliza passed away. That same day, in the afternoon, we received a phone call telling us our project for anti-convulsion medication had been approved.
"The other parents began wondering if we would still be interested in continuing with the project. They thought we might not want to because of the pain and sorrow we felt, so we reassured them we were more motivated than ever, how could we not? Continuing the project gives meaning to our lives, including our daughter's life. It's amazing how a situation such as this one can have such an effect on your life and give it some kind of meaning.
"By the end of 2000, we achieved another goal – my wife's placement as a Special Needs Teacher through our village's Board of Education. This brought us such happiness! Dreams were becoming a reality and, together with Spain's Médicos del Mundo (Doctors of the World) we can count on a teacher's assistant, educational material, and build a physiotherapy and rehabilitation room for those who may need it. The beauty of this is that it all kept coming together as the needs arose."
Due to the lack of services available they began to organize a support system for children with disabilities. At its founding in 1998, Adisa worked with three families in Santiago Atitlán. Today, Adisa attends to over one thousand children in Guatemala and is a leading organization in Latin America in defending the rights of people with disabilities. The work started with providing care at the community level in special education and neurological physiotherapy sessions, with the intention to continue integrating other parents into the organization. The programs were formalized through the development of its strategic plan and ADISA obtained legal status as an association on September 12, 2003.
"The recycled crafts project came as an answer to the question, 'What will the children do when they're too old to go to school?' We have developed different techniques in order to have each one specialize in a particular part of the process, depending on their disability: one person folds the paper, another one rolls it up, and a third person can shape the object. Their spirit for achievement is amazing and here we are – crafting products we hope will be valued for the effort and quality that go into them.
"ADISA's mission is to promote the social inclusion in nearby communities and villages of children with different needs, whether they are physical, mental, or sensory. We wish to reach out and offer education, health services and vocational formation to as many people as we can. Our motto is, 'An equal world for all.'"
We have worked with ADISA special needs artisans to produce Special Christmas Stars using papercraft techniques. They are sold in two sizes: large 5.5x5.5 and small 4x4. Follow this link to the stars. All proceeds go to Artesanos ADISA. You can find out more about them on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/artesanos.de.adisa/).
In memoriam - sadly we learned that Jose Sosof Coo, head of Artesanos ADISA passed away September 17, 2021. He was 47 years old.