HISTORY OF APNMI, LA GAVIOTA & LABOR OF LOVE
On October 9, 1993 a group of parents of children with disabilities met to see if there existed sufficient interest to form an organization. The principle desires of the group were to offer assistance and support between families and to improve the children’s quality of life.
On July 27, 1994 the Asociación de Padres de Niños Mentalmente Inhabilitados, A.C. (APNMI) was legally constituted as a not-for-profit organization authorized to issue tax deductible receipts in Mexico. In 1999 a private special education school, “La Gaviota”, was registered with the Department of Education under the association’s patronage. The non-profit organization, Labor of Love Association, was established in 2004 to provide hearing services in Mexico and was expanded in 2009 to include assistance for medical and educational projects as well. Labor of Love provides an avenue for tax deductible donations from the United States as it assists APNMI and La Gaviota in its program. The legal registration of the Medical/Dental facility was accomplished in November 2008.
The Asociación de Padres de Niños Mentalmente Inhabilitados, A.C. (APNMI) provides medical and dental care, education, social services, adapted equipment, emotional support, job training, and employment to persons with physical and mental challenges and their families. These services are provided through the donation of services, equipment and supplies and the generous contributions of individuals, service organizations and businesses. The association’s affiliated school has a salaried staff of a director, three teachers, a secretary, and a physical therapist; all other personnel-including the administration- are volunteers. The association is housed in a facility donated in 1998 through a contribution from the United Fund. It is located in Nuevo Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, Mexico.
The APNMI Mission is to help persons with disabilities and their families face their challenges in the most positive way possible through the cooperation and united efforts of families with similar challenges
The association’s principle goal is to help any person with special challenges reach his maximum potential and enrich his life in any way possible. In order to reach this goal, APNMI has six main areas of focus. (Medical, Educational, Social, Adapted equipment, Emotional, Adult Services)
I. MEDICAL AND DENTAL CARE
The APNMI medical program consists of volunteer medical personal from the United States and Mexico that provide specialized treatments in orthopedics, neurology, ophthalmology, dentistry, audiology, plastic surgery, dermatology, etc. These services are made available to members of the association and persons of limited means from the nine municipalities (counties) located in the north of the state of Chihuahua around the area of Nuevo Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, Mexico.
Patients are referred to the association by local doctors, government agencies, and other patients. The person’s information is recorded; an economic evaluation is prepared by volunteer university students then the patient’s name is put on the appropriate waiting list. When the specific clinic is scheduled the patient is contacted and given an appointment.
The APNMI Medical Clinic is licensed for ambulatory surgeries. Local surgeons as well as volunteer teams from the United States are now able to treat more patients of limited means. The ophthalmology surgical team has performed many cataract surgeries that have restored their patients’ sight.
The APNMI dental program provides quality dental care to individuals with disabilities, their families, and other persons of limited resources through the services of volunteer dentists. The dental clinic is equipped with two dental treatment rooms with two chairs each and x-ray equipment. A portable dental unit is also available for clinics in outlying areas. The service includes preventative dental care and education, with emphasis on children, to reduce the incidence of tooth decay and loss and to relieve the pain of those with poor dental health. The goals of La Gaviota Dental Clinic are:
1. Provide dental examinations and evaluations to persons who do not have access to quality dental care.
2. Teach correct oral hygiene.
3. Treat diseases of the teeth including fillings and extractions.
4. Perform necessary cosmetic procedures and cleanings.
The APNMI education program started in1994 with Mother-Child classes and gradually expanded until funding became available to pay a teacher. APNMI’s affiliated school, “La Gaviota”, was legally registered as a private school for children with disabilities in 1999. The school functions well with a small staff because the mothers are required to attend school with their children. The mothers help with cleaning the building, preparing the daily school lunch, fund raising, volunteering during medical clinics, and driving the school vans. School hours are set so the mothers are home when their other children are out of class. If there are pre-school aged siblings in the home, they attend La Gaviota also and help provide an integrated environment for the students. Transportation is provided for the children and their mothers through the use of donated vehicles. The school operates year-round but the summer schedule involves the children’s siblings and includes outings and field trips. Educational services are provided without charge
Children are accepted from birth through approximately 18 years of age and are integrated into the program appropriate to their needs (Early Intervention, Pre-school, and Special Education). There are approximately 60 children enrolled at this time. The salaried staff includes a director, three teachers and a secretary. Two retired teachers volunteer their time. A local physical therapist provides training and orientation for the mothers. Volunteers from the community and local schools and university assist the teachers and mothers. .
Early Intervention: Babies and toddlers that are enrolled in La Gaviota attend this class where their mothers learn how to interact, play and provide therapy for their child. This also is a time where the mother receives emotional support as she comes to accept her child’s condition.
Preschool: Most of the children that participate in this program are between the ages of three and five years old. The purpose of this program is to prepare the child to be integrated into a regular Kindergarten. Children that have graduated from this program have successfully continued their education in their neighborhood schools.
Special Education: Children that have significant challenges are provided with educational experiences designed to help them develop their maximum potential. Most of the children in this program remain until they are mentally old enough to receive adult services.
Physical Therapy: A licensed physical therapist evaluates each child, teaches the mothers the exercises their children require and supervises them as they participate in daily group therapy sessions.
An education program for participants with disabilities over the age of 18 was added to the Gaviota in 2004 and is at the present time offered in an afternoon session. The students participate in educational activities, life skills, job training, sports, crafts (greeting card construction, piñatas) ceramics, dance and excursions into the community. The social interaction that is provided through this service has significantly improved the quality of life for the adults involved and their families. This program is also part of the Adult Services area of focus.
Continuing Education: Basic education classes are provided during school hours where parents can complete their primary and secondary education. This service is provided through a government program without cost to the participant.
Parenting classes: Courses in parenting skills, communication and other pertinent issues are presented weekly through another government program hosted in the APNMI Center.
Seminars and Conventions: APNMI parents participate in seminars, lectures, courses and conventions that relate to their needs offered by foundations, organizations and government agencies. The association works with the participants to provide transportation and other support so that the mothers can attend the events.
III. SOCIAL SERVICES/COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
The APNMI association’s original purpose was to provide normal social opportunities for the families such as birthday parties and Christmas celebrations. The necessity for other services quickly evolved but the social aspect of the group has always been an integral part of the regular activities.
Local schools and doctors refer parents and teachers to APNMI and La Gaviota for counseling and advice as they learn to work with the children at home and in the school environment. As the association’s influence has grown, members have been invited to attend seminars, forums, and workshops involving the development of laws to protect persons with disabilities. Several parents and children have participated in educational and civic courses as both attendees and presenters in various programs to improve the public attitude toward persons with special needs and are regularly interviewed for television and radio programs. One APNMI child was made an honorary congressman for the state of Chihuahua and another child represented the state in the national telethon for children with disabilities. Two other children won first and third place in a state-wide art competition.
IV. ADAPTED EQUIPMENT
APNMI receives donations of wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, hospital beds, and other adapted equipment for the care and use of people with disabilities. The patient or car