From bed-bound child to flourishing accountant: Salvador's story
Salvador loves his job as an accountant at Adisa's artisan workshop. The wheelchair-bound 27-year-old beams as he explains how he keeps track of spending and incoming payments.
When he's not busy doing the bookkeeping, Salvador helps the other 14 artisans - all of whom have disabilities - make bags, bowls, jewelry and Christmas decorations from recycled newspapers.
"I'm so happy and proud to be where I am now," Salvador said. "I had never imagined I would come this far."
Salvador was born healthy but started suffering from rheumatic arthritis when he was five years old.
His parents were too poor to take him to hospital for treatment so he spent three years confined to his bed. He couldn’t move his arms or legs and his knees were tucked into his chest.
He was sure he would never have the chance to go to school and became very depressed. His family's apartment looked set to become his world because the long flight of stairs down to the road meant he couldn’t leave the house without help.
But an invite to a meeting at Adisa when he was eight years old turned his life around. Instead of resigning himself to a life in bed, he started getting treatment.
He spent the next three years in a hospital in the nearby Spanish colonial city of Antigua, where he had operations on his hips, knees and heels. But he still couldn’t walk and he didn’t have much strength.
When he returned home to the hilly town of Santiago on the shore of Lake Atitlan, Salvador began therapy at Adisa. Argentina, one of Adisa’s founders, encouraged him to attend Atitlán's special education school that Adisa ran at the time.
But life was difficult. Santiago Atitlán was not accessible for a wheelchair user so he went back to Antigua, where he lived in a home run by a non-governmental organisation called Transitions for four years.
As a teenager he became increasingly self-conscious and questioned what he had done to deserve his disability. But with help from friends and psychologists, he gradually came to accept his disability not as a limitation, but a challenge. When he was 23 he graduated from high school, where he had studied accounting. That skillset landed him the job at ADISA where his work as an accountant has given him a new lease of life.
His job makes him one of only around 2 percent of people with disabilities in Guatemala who are believed to be employed. The best thing about ADISA´s workshop is that it integrates people who would otherwise likely be marginalized, he said.
"While they might not take that much money home at the end of the month, it helps them to feel included and it helps their families economically too," he said. "It's a way to get people with disabilities out of their homes and to make them to feel empowered."
Salvador has no doubt about the impact Adisa has had on his own life either.
¨If it weren’t for Adisa I would probably have stayed at home,¨ he said. ¨I´ve learned so many things that I would never have had the opportunity to learn if it weren’t for Adisa.¨
And he has big plans for the future. Salvador is studying business administration at university and dreams of opening his own business one day - something he could never have imagined in his most toughest days as a child.