By Brooke Gazer
Un Nuevo Amanecer is a non-profit organization that helps children with disabilities. This dedicated group receives very little government assistance and could not exist without the generous support of Huatulco’s residents and visitors. Eighty percent of its funding comes from two exuberant beach parties, held at Playa Chahue each winter.
This year, on January 11, Blues on the Beach will headline Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne, along with David Rotundo. David needs no introduction to those who have attended previously; he plays a mean harmonica and brings a dynamic energy to the stage. Kenny is a world-acclaimed American blues, boogie-woogie, and jazz pianist. He is legendary for reintroducing the piano as an important instrument in modern jazz. This dynamic duo is bound to set the beach ablaze.
January will be a hard act to follow – but on February 8, it is certain that Rita Chiarelli, along with her rhythm and blues band “Sweet Loretta” will rise to the challenge. Rita is known across Canada as the “Goddess of the Blues”. She is said to have a “voice so blue it could make the angels weep”. Her six-piece all-female band comes with a full complement of seasoned musicians: brass, strings, percussion, and keyboard. Two additional guest artists will join these ladies on stage. Cheryl Lescom has been instrumental in shaping the Canadian blues scene and is no stranger to Huatulco. Sara Smith brings with her a powerful passionate voice, along with very persuasive stage presence. Together these feisty women are likely to blow the stars right out of Huatulco’s night sky.
The organizer, Dan Thompson, the UNA staff, and parents of disabled children all work diligently to create spectacular events. Turnout at Blues on the Beach continues to grow as word of mouth spreads about the quality of entertainment offered. This event is so well received that last year’s audiences exceeded six hundred and seven hundred people consecutively. With this kind of enthusiasm, it is obvious that Huatulco residents and visitors benefit from their efforts almost as much as the kids at the institute for which the event is held.
And these little tykes do benefit. Seventy percent of the children at UNA are under five years of age because the primary focus there is intervention. If children with various disabilities are reached early, their prognosis improves significantly. The goal is to integrate them into a regular school system, since research shows this will make them more likely to cope in the outside world as adults.
Children who are integrated are allowed testing modifications because it is understood that they can’t develop quite the same way. For example, in math class, a grade one student might be asked, “If you have five apples and you give two to your sister, how many will you have left?” The question for the integrated student is simplified, “How much is five minus two?” The calculation is the same but less reasoning is required.
For students who can’t function in an integrated setting, Huatulco offers something for more severely challenged children. The Centro de Atención Múltiple No. 17 is located in sector K. However, if students who might be integrated are enrolled only with other disabled children, they will not reach their full potential and are likely to remain dependent. Evidence is also clear that the earlier the intervention, the more likely it is that children with disabilities, both mental and physical, will become functional.
Twenty-eight infants who were considered at risk and were diagnosed with some form of intellectual or motor disability were treated at UNA. At the age of three, the kids were retested and achieved normal results for their age group. Although it is possible, but not certain, that other difficulties may become apparent as they enter school. Learning disabilities like, ADHD or some form of dyslexia may surface, but these are not insurmountable obstacles. However, without this intervention as infants, these children were likely doomed to a life with little opportunity and to remain dependent as adults.
The possibility that these kids can be saved and able to live a reasonably normal life is cause to celebrate. I hope you can join the party with UNA on Jan 11 or February 8 and do just that.
Brooke Gazer operates Agua Azul la Villa, an ocean view bed and breakfast in Huatulco. www.bbaguaazul.com