Sandy and Ilene were greeted with hugs. Other FOC volunteers received big smiles, handshakes and enthusiastic greetings from students at the CAM Laboral School.
Friends of Cozumel began support of the CAM (Centro de Atencion Multiple ) School long ago. The school provides education and related services for children with mental, physical and behavioral disabilities. Now CAM Laboral, the learning program for young adults ages 14 to 22, has a new, separate facility that FOC volunteers recently visited.
Three school workshops in cooking, computation and crafts extend the students’ education beyond the traditional classroom to learn basic hands-on and life skills. The classrooms buzz with energy from engaged students and instructors who clearly care about their learning.
For all the progress being made in these students’ education, it’s hard to overlook the potential for even more. A fourth workshop in carpentry has the tools and space to work, but the classroom door is kept closed and locked. There is no funding for an instructor to lead it.
While the government built an attractive facility to educate these students, no funds are provided for even the most basic supplies such as paper or cleaning supplies. Families are asked to pay the school’s expenses, but according to the school director only 11 of the 51 students’ families have been able to contribute financially.
The cooking class awaits donations of flour in order to bake. The computer lab needs headphones to allow visually impaired students to interact online. A shiny new outdoor drinking fountain is unused since purifying filters cannot be purchased. Many students have been absent from classes ever since the school bus broke down. There simply are no funds for repair.
Despite ongoing needs, CAM Laboral instructors continue to make a difference with the help of outside support. A Friends of Cozumel connection helped develop a partnership of local and U.S. Rotary clubs, creating donations of desks, computers and air conditioning.
“It’s rare for students to have computers or Internet access in their homes, so this lab gives them good experience,” said CAM Laboral Director Nayeli Vazquez. “But we still need braille keyboards for visually impaired students and some tablets to give experience with more types of technology.”
In the cooking workshop, students were busy decorating cookies—some by sight, others only by feel. Six empty seats were those of students who lacked transportation to get to school.
“We teach baking—when we have the supplies,” said Linda, the cooking instructor. “They also learn to make things useful at home like sandwiches, pasta, churros and Jello. Decorating cookies like this improves motor skills.”
Linda identified donation needs as flour, sugar, butter, oil, vanilla, pasta, tuna, cake decorating ingredients, and a sturdy table to hold an oven.
Next door, the craft workshop was in progress. Students proudly showed their work to volunteers. When supplies are available, students are sometimes allowed to make extras to be sold. Needs include craft supplies and simple storage shelving.
“We like to encourage visitors to interact, help instructors, or even teach a class,” said Vazquez. “The students are capable of so many things. Sometimes when their parents visit classes, they’re surprised to see how much they’re learned.”
Do you want to help continue the learning? Read more about the needs of CAM Laboral on the Wish List.