A message from Elizabeth “Beta” Gomes:

Dear Family and Friends,

In October of 2016 I traveled to my home country of Cape Verde in hopes of learning more about the educational opportunities available for student with disabilities. However upon my arrival I was immediately confronted with the reality that, there was virtually no stable opportunities for these student. In meeting with government officials, educators, advocates and parents I learned that many communities do not have the capacity to welcome students with disabilities and especially for children who are not high functioning.

As a parent of a son who has autism, it was heartbreaking to witness the hopelessness and lack of resources for children like my son. In one of my most extreme encounters, I learned of a father who locks his son up in a small prison-like cell, all day, everyday, while he works, as he does not know how to deal with his son. I spent a lot of time with parents of students with disabilities and they feel marginalized,and hopeless.

While all of these realities certainly brought my spirits down, I was reminded of the desire and motivation many of the parents have to see their children happy and learning. Many of these parents were just like me when I first came to grips with my son’s diagnosis. However what separates our story is the level access I had to information, resources and professional support.

From this realization, I pitched a program idea to Boston Public Schools, and we’re in the process of building a program to address this immediate need. We are looking to construct a cohort of educators, social workers, occupational therapist and more to travel to Cape Verde and provide training and mentorship to their Cape Verdean counterparts. We also will build a campaign to end the stigma of autism and disabilities driven by family advocates in our programs, BPS parents of children with disabilities.

We hope to launch the program in Fall of 2018, however there is a lot of foundation work in Cape Verde that will need to happen first! To that end, I am launching a fundraising campaign to raise $6,000 (plus additional gofundme fees) to jump-start the program. We need to fly a small team of people to Fogo and Praia to gather information from our community partners, and to secure accommodations for our professional cohort. We need to immerse ourselves in the issue more closely and assess the capacity for our program in their education system. Your contribution will assist us in this crucial process. Every donation counts! We are open to any questions you should have and will certainly keep you posted on the progress of this program.

The time to unlock and empower students with disabilities in Cape Verde is now!

Elizabeth “Beta” Gomes