YES Programs



Special Needs Appreciation Day

YES alumna and the whole team with the special needs people taking a group picture.

By Isha Sewradj (YES 2021-2022, Suriname, placed by YFU in Spaulding IL)

On Monday, September 5th, 2022, YES alumni in Suriname organized a project for Special Needs Appreciation Day. The project was hosted at Huize Betheljada, a nursing home for people with disabilities. This facility specializes in providing proper care and attention to disabled individuals, including children and adults. We wanted to spend this day ensuring everyone at Huize Betheljada felt, loved and knew that they matter. We hope that our project brings awareness to disability rights and encourages more volunteering efforts like this in the future.

YES alumna with others doing face painting with one of the children at Betheljada.

We chose this specific project for many reasons. Some of us previously did community service projects in the U.S. with people with disabilities. For half of my exchange year, I volunteered at a nursing home for people with dementia. Furthermore, both Eliza Redjopawiro (YES 2021-2022, Suriname, placed by American Councils in Sheboygan Falls, WI) and I attended  a session during Civic Education Week in Washington D.C.  about disability rights and advocacy.That’s when I realized that in my home country of Suriname there is not enough awareness and inclusion of people with disabilities. It starts with us, the youth, to bring change by doing projects like this. 

At Huize Betheljada, we got the opportunity to work with a variety of people with disabilities. We spent the day doing various activities with the residents like face painting, storytelling, and musical performances. The experience was memorable and fun because of the smiles, interactions, and the happiness that we saw. Twenty-five participants, between the ages of 5 and 60, participated in the event.

During the project we had the privilege of being guided through the process by another alumna and chairwoman of the YES Alumni Association Suriname, Cheraine Amelo (Cheraine Amelo (YES 2018-2019, Suriname, placed by PAX in Bluffton, IN). This was a rewarding and meaningful project, which we are very proud of. Even though there were some challenges and learning curves for our team, the impact we had in bringing awareness and happiness to this group made it worth it.

YES alumna, Isha and other alumnis are helping one of the children in taking a bubble bath.

After the project, the caregivers and staff at Huize Betheljada shared that we got along with the participants very well. We were very happy to hear this because our main goal was showing the residents and the people around us that people with disabilities deserve to be treated like equal and valuable members of society. We also had a very educational chat with the director of Huize Betheljada at the end, where we assured him that this project would not be our last and that we’re looking forward to working with him in the future. One thing that the director said that stuck with us was the importance of projects like this. He said that a lot of people donate money and food, which is necessary and appreciated, but they never actually visit and spend quality time with the residents, which brings the residents a lot of joy. We plan to do many more projects involving people with disabilities and we will always strive to spread the message of equality in Suriname.