Grantee Site Visits in Puerto Rico Part 2: Sociedad de Educación y Rehabilitación (SER) de Puerto Rico

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on July 02, 2019 # Quality of Life

On our previous post we talked about our visit to Puerto Rico. Our Paralysis Resource Center (PRC) Senior Director and I had the opportunity to participate at the first Puerto Rico Abilities Fair and visit some of our Quality of Life (QoL) grantees. As part of the oversight of our grants program, the PRC visits some of its grantees to assess progress and learn more about our grants’ impact in the disability community. First, we visited Equinoterapia Puerto Rico; our second stop was SER de Puerto Rico.

The Sociedad de Educación y Rehabilitación (SER) de Puerto Rico strives to serve people living with disabilities using a multidisciplinary approach and providing a range of services from therapeutic to educational. Their mission is to help people living with disabilities live independent, productive, active, and self-sufficient lives. The Reeve Foundation awarded them a Quality of Life Grant in 2017 to improve accessibility to their swimming therapy area. The hydraulic lift SER de Puerto Rico acquired allows people living with paralysis to participate in aquatic therapy.

After our first site visit, we went back to Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan, and ventured into the inner city to find SER de Puerto Rico. There we met the staff and leadership members, including April Manzano, CFO, who gave us a tour of their main campus. First, we stopped at their state-of-the-art rehabilitation center, which provides services to both children and adults. Here we saw their movement laboratory in action and met several of the therapy staff and participants. Then, we toured their school, a Montessori inclusive education initiative. As luck may have it, they were having an outdoors event, and we saw several of the students, many using wheelchairs, actively participating in field events. Finally, we visited the pool where a physical therapist and a young participant were in an aquatic therapy session. The physical therapist expressed the benefits of the hydraulic lift for both the participants, who can now access the pool regardless of their mobility issues and the therapist, who can seamlessly and safely get participants in and out of the pool.

SER de Puerto Rico opened its doors in 1950 as the first center on the island to treat children diagnosed with polio. From there, it expanded its mission and scope to help all people living with disability and mobility issues. Today, SER de Puerto Rico provides a myriad of services, including an inclusive K-12 school, a rehabilitation center, a medical center, and an orthotics clinic. Additionally, they provide outreach and screening to hard to reach populations.

We can sum up our impression of this organization as surpassing anything we expected to see. We saw children and adults fulfilling their rehabilitation and educational potential in a nurturing and inclusive environment. The happy and empowered faces of the children in the movement lab and the outdoors festivities were only matched by the grateful faces of their parents and the staff. As the grandmother of the child doing aquatic therapy told us “Aquí ella se siente libre y que puede hacerlo todo” (Here she feels free and able to do anything).

SER de Puerto Rico also felt the effect of Hurricane Maria. Our contact, April told us about the impact it had on service delivery on the first weeks, some of the damage they had, and the struggle of their families to access services in the aftermath of the disaster. To learn more about this organization and Hurricane Maria, see our previous Story of Impact blog.

Similarly to Equinoterapia Puerto Rico, SER de Puerto Rico is looking to increase their services and are working to secure a location for their new center in Roosevelt Roads. This center will allow them to serve the communities of the eastern side of the island as well as hard to reach communities on two small adjacent islands.

As we left Puerto Rico, we felt confident and proud of all we had witnessed. The first Abilities Fair of Puerto Rico welcomed over 1,500 visitors and 92 exhibitors. Dr. Gretchelle Dilán, the founder and president of the fair, told us she is already working to make next year’s fair an even bigger event. The nonprofit organizations we met left us with the assurance that Puerto Ricans living with paralysis have the support system to live a fulfilling and healthy life under their everlasting sun.

By Patricia E. Correa, Associate Manager, Information Services and Translation

For more information on the PRC’s grant program, please visit www.ChristopherReeve.org/QOL.