Empowering changemakers around the world

For 100 years, Perkins has trained special educators to reach 6 million children with multiple disabilities, no matter where they live

Kaique Manuel works with a student in a wheelchair.
March 23, 2020

When Isis was 13, she went to see a physical therapist named Kaique Manuel in São Paulo, Brazil. They couldn’t communicate with one another, however — a result of Isis’ hearing loss and autism, and Manuel’s lack of training working with children who have multiple disabilities.

The experience, and that inability to communicate, put Manuel on a path to Perkins as a member of the Educational Leadership Program’s Class of 2020.

“She was looking at me and didn’t know what was going on. I tried to find a way to reach her, but I just couldn’t,” recalls Manuel. “It was really frustrating.”

All around the world, talented professionals like Manuel want to help children like Isis but don’t have the skills. They are special educators, therapists, medical professionals and more. The children they struggle to support number in the millions.

Perkins identified this problem 100 years ago and responded by inviting educational professionals to study alongside our teachers. Today this program is known as the Perkins International Educational Leadership Program.

With your ongoing support, the Program has equipped participants like Manuel with the skills to improve the lives of the most vulnerable children, no matter where they live.

“As a young girl, I read the autobiography of Helen Keller. Her life, courage and accomplishments so inspired me,” notes RoAnn Costin, a longtime supporter of Perkins’ international work. “This work builds on her belief that all children deserve the right to an education, no matter where they are born.”

Most critically, each participant also develops the skills necessary to effectively share what they’ve learned with fellow educators, who in turn train peers of their own. This creates a multiplier effect: One graduate of the program can empower whole communities, reduce the stigma against disability and shape policy in support of inclusive education.

Thanks to your support, these are just some of the ways program graduates improve life for children in their countries. It’s also why Manuel is excited for the future of children like Isis back in Brazil.

“We can make big changes,” he says. “I really believe it. I can follow in the footsteps of past graduates and bring real change to my country.”