Celebrate Best Buddies Peru
Best Buddies Peru was initiated in 2009 under the umbrella of Asociación Proyecto Inclusión Perú (APIP), an association founded by parents of individuals with intellectual disabilities with professionals and friends who want to promote educational and social inclusion in Peruvian society. After much hard work, the pilot chapter at University of San Ignacio de Loyola was launched on September 18th with a volunteer training followed by the matching of the first Best Buddies pairs in Peru.
Gladys Russell, a founding member of APIP and the Director of Best Buddies Peru, shares how Best Buddies Peru came to be and the impact that it has had on her family:
We were introduced to Best Buddies by staff member, Valerie Vitale, when she was in Peru visiting her family. A mutual friend arranged for us to meet. This friend thought it would be a good introduction because our son, Bryan, who has Down syndrome, had become a catalyst for our family to advocate for social inclusion since his birth. Since then in Peru, there have been many advances in education and inclusion in the classroom, but there is still a lack of social inclusion in the day to day lives of people with intellectual disabilities.
After learning more about Best Buddies, we knew immediately that this model would present a wonderful opportunity to bridge this gap to social inclusion. After some time passed, we thought that Best Buddies would be perfect fit for Asociación Proyecto Inclusión Perú (APIP). I was overjoyed when the other members of APIP agreed that Best Buddies was a project they also wanted to take on.
In July of 2009, Maritza Noya, President of APIP and I attended the Best Buddies International Leadership Conference in Bloomington, Indiana. We came back more enthusiastic than ever and started working very hard with members of APIP to make Best Buddies Peru a reality.
This vision took shape with the first volunteer training and the matching ceremony. The participants, their families, the school and members of APIP were very moved and excited. Our dream had finally come true. Bryan, who attends University of San Ignacio de Loyola said, “Best Buddies is important to include ‘special’ people (people with disabilities) into our society so we do not feel excluded but feel equal to everyone else. For me, it is a chance to communicate with someone my own age that understands me and can help me to mix socially. It is great to know that there is an organization that is trying to help us be part of the ‘normal’ world.”
We know the road ahead will not always be smooth but we are very confident that Best Buddies Peru will grow and play an active part in promoting social inclusion in Peru.