Friday, August 13, 2004

Facility for exceptional children

Recently a group of parents and volunteers asked me to work with them
on a facility for exceptional children in the community called "Smile
Forever." (SF) The facility would be one that would help train
children with learning disabilities to earn a decent wage. I was
asked to participate, mostly because of my views on education, I

Wednesday was the first meeting of the group. There were 8 people
there, two parents of children who would participate at SF, two of
the instructors, two members of the local community group who would
serve finally as a kind of sanctioning body, one of the young people
who would be working at the facility, and me. We went over the
paperwork that has to be sumitted to the city for approval. There are
some funds available for these kinds of small businesses for
exceptional people. The necessary paperwork included goals, a
description of the physical working environment, proposed number of
participants (around 8 exceptional kids), and proposed expenditures.
There were few problems with the documents, and they will be
submitted soon.

The organizers of SF have been working on ways of generating income
while at the same time giving the participants real life skills.
There are facilities that are organized just to earn money for the
participants. That is a good thing, because they can have a place
where they can gather, socialize and build a little self esteem. Many
of those facilties do piece work, put together small car parts or
electronic components. That kind of work doesn't build skills that
will come in handy if they every can or must live on their own,
though. The group I'm working with at SF is thinking about doing some
cooking, maybe cookies and drinks for a small cafe, some sewing of
clothes and other fabric items, and some other sales of crafts, Free
Trade goods, and art made by a few local crafts people. That way they
get some experience in dealing with customers and exchanging money.

It is a great way to organize these kinds of efforts. It is very
local and can address the needs of the neighborhood in a way that
benefits everyone. I was very pleased with the kind of unconditional
support that the community group offered. The two leaders of the
community group who were there had some suggestions about how to
better use the channels of authority more efficiently, but otherwise,
they were very generous with their promises of long-term support. I
was actually kind of surprised by that, because usually those kinds
of bodies are a "well, we'll see how it goes after a year," but they
were very enthusiastic about making sure that the facility was
started on time with everything that they needed to be successful.

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