A Major Key to the Future
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A Major Key to the Future

A gift of technology strikes a chord at Ecuador's Sinamune Disabled Children's Orchestra

If you were to close your eyes and hear the Sinamune Disabled Children's Orchestra play, you might never imagine its musicians were mostly children and young adults with special needs. The orchestra was founded in 1992 by maestro Edgar Augusto Palacio to help these students overcome mental and visual challenges by developing the motor skills needed to play a musical instrument. As they do so, they also gain the confidence they need to face many other challenges throughout their lives and integrate more easily into mainstream society.

Sinamune (Sistema Nacional de sica para Niños Especiales, or National Music System for Special-Needs Children) provides an education to about 65 students, ages 12-47, with four classroom teachers and six professional instrumentalists. While music remains the school's special focus, subjects ranging from geometry and physics to art are also taught.

Education, rehabilitation, personalized ongoing care, and room and board are offered free to all who need them, with local support in the form of food donations requested in return. The value of these donations adds up to roughly $5,000 per student annually, a boon compared to local support for other similar educational programming.

Unfortunately, in 2012 the government of Ecuador, where the school is located, withdrew its support of Sinamune, giving the organization the challenge of becoming self-supporting.

Despite this setback, however, Maestro Palacios remains optimistic about Sinamune's future. It has been his dream to have the orchestra become self-sustaining through entrepreneurial activities. Two years ago, the school created a computer center to get its students motivated about learning and help them develop the technological skills they need to succeed in today's world. Once students have mastered these skills, Sinamune hopes they will be able to offer training and consulting services that will help close the economic gap caused by the state's withdrawal of funds.

First, however, the school needed to update its equipment, since most of the computers had been donated by other organizations and were already—or were on the verge of becoming—obsolete. Sinamune's administrative office and recording studio also needed new equipment.

A Sinamune partner since 2004, Grand Circle Foundation was proud to respond to this pressing need. Our gift of $15,000 purchased four office computers, ten computers for the computer center, ten computer desks, software, audio equipment, and a photocopier. It will also fund the physical expansion of the computer center.

Our past gifts to the school have helped refurbish school's beautiful auditorium, where our visiting travelers enjoy musical performances; purchasing musical instruments; building a kitchen and dining room for the service of daily meals; and creating a boutique. The boutique also supports the maestro's entrepreneurial vision for the school by selling clothing, crafts, and other merchandise to help finance the institution. At the same time, it teaches the students valuable skills, such as textile production, organizing workshops, generating support from the community, and learning about business and money management.

Featured in our May/June 2013 E-Newsletter. Read the full issue here.