The Shalom center for people with disabilities in Lima provides low-cost physical, occupational, and language therapy to children and adults with myriad disabilities from Down Syndrome to autism to cerebral palsy. For about $3.50 per session, families receive the services of professional therapists in an environment where they are treated with dignity and come to feel God’s all-inclusive love.
Currently, Shalom is renting half of a cement-floored house, with former bedrooms serving as therapy rooms.
This year, Shalom will move across the street to a four-story house that is being renovated to create larger therapy rooms, a dedicated crafts room, an area that will accommodate large gatherings, and a permanent chapel for the church.
Reverend Pat Blanchard, long-term U.K. missionary, ministers at the Shalom center for people with disabilities and its church.
Below, Pat shares the history, and great challenge, of Shalom:
“Shalom began in 2001 during pastoral visits to the Nazareno Sector of Pamplona Alta (in Lima, in the district of San Juan de Miraflores) by volunteer nurse Beatriz Magowan from the Diocese of Worcester in England and Reverend David Gonzáles from Peru. They saw a young man with cerebral palsy, Austin, who was tied into a chair outside his house. Austin needed a wheelchair. So Beatrice investigated and found Corazones Unidos, “United Hearts,” and through them found Austin a wheelchair. Various people from the Anglican church were trained in working with those with disabilities, including Luisa and Etelvina, who still work with us. Luisa serves as the coordinator for the Shalom center and Etelvina as a constant help and encourager in the ministry. Through another child who Beatriz found, Cinthia, we made contact with the local special-needs school and other mothers and their children. There are several families still with us today from this initial group: Lucy and her son Lucho, Lidia and her daughter Brenda, and Nelly and her son Andres.
“We began meeting every two months in the Jesus el Nazareno church (also in Lima in the Pamplona Alta area of the district of San Juan de Miraflores) with testimonies, family orientation, Bible study, games, and times to get to know each other and share experiences to strengthen the mothers. There were about fifteen to twenty of us in total. At this time, we chose the name “Shalom” for the group, which means “peace, wholeness, and well being,” believing that having a child with special needs presents many challenges but God can bring peace and meaning into the situation and He can give us confidence in Him to help when things are difficult and frustrating. He can help us to have faith and hope and be able to achieve many things. There are pain and difficulties, but there is much joy and much to do in Shalom.
“In 2005, we started physical therapy sessions thanks to Lucy, who gave us space in her garage here in Buenos Milagros (“Good Miracles”), and physical therapist Ruth Benites, who came twice a week. After some time, Lucy gave us some more space in her home and we added occupational and language therapy, seeing almost thirty children during the week. We moved into larger premises next door and had the three therapies running Monday to Friday from 2pm until 7pm with almost fifty children. A small early-stimulation class was added in the mornings and practical workshops in the afternoons. In February 2008, we started the church with Sunday services, Bible studies, and preparation for baptism, communion, and confirmation. In January 2009, we crossed the road to Victor Raul sector, renting and growing, thinking it would be possible to build on some spare land in the community. This was not fruitful, and in 2009, we ended the year purchasing a two-story building back in Buenos Milagros.
“Shalom now has its own premises, which we are in the process of remodelling to improve and expand the services and activities we provide. We have more than eighty children in contact with the center, with more than sixty receiving therapies and others benefiting in other ways through the ministry.
“Shalom represents a great challenge: that we love our neighbour as ourselves, with sincere love, without prejudices, without shame, and that we accept our differences–some of which are evident, some of which are able to be overcome, some of which are hidden, some of which are difficult to live with–remembering that we are all children of God, loved by Him, and need to love each other and continue this task valiantly so that all society learns this respect and acceptance.”