Educating individuals with congenital rubella syndrome, which can cause hearing and vision loss, has long been a topic of interest in Latin America. So when Perkins International’s Argentina office announced an online forum about the syndrome on its fledgling website last fall, organizers hoped the unprecedented experiment would prove a success.
The nearly 200 registered participants and more than 2,000 virtual visits to the online event, funded by the Pan American Health Organization in Argentina, did just that.
“There were times when we had a doctor online to answer questions, or a parent or a teacher,” said Stephen Perreault, Perkins International’s coordinator for Latin America. “We posted articles on different themes. Our goal for the website is to connect local programs and encourage our partners to share their ideas and strategies. We’re constantly trying to think of ways we can better connect people to resources.”
Perkins International’s Latin America website, located at www.Perkinsla.org, went live only 18 months ago. Since then, the Spanish language site has drawn nearly 5,000 visitors including educators, parents and caregivers who are looking for resources, success stories and ideas for teaching and caring for individuals who are blind, deaf or have multiple disabilities.
“Our partners needed a space where they could find and share information, give their opinions and exchange ideas,” said Graciela Ferioli, who oversees Perkins International’s Argentina office. “The forum was an invaluable experience.”
The site focuses on one particular theme per month, such as teaching independence skills, and features a related success story, said Paula Rubiolo, who works with Ferioli to select and organize the website’s content. It offers a library of resources and publications that can be downloaded in Spanish or Portuguese. It shares news and links from various partner programs across the continent, and it posts information about trainings and events. It also outlines the mission and history of Perkins International, and links to Perkins’ main website and Perkins Products.
“Our partners are doing remarkable things every day in their respective schools and programs,” said Aubrey Webson, director of Perkins International. “Our job is to facilitate their work in every way possible. This website is simply a catalyst that allows more educators and caregivers to benefit from the wealth of knowledge and experience that already exists in Latin America.”
Before the site launched, Perkins International would regularly compile a CD of articles and publications in Spanish and circulate them among its partners. But as its library of resources grew – as well as its number of partnerships, spread across the continent’s 8 million square miles – it became clear that creating a website would enhance those resources.
“Twenty years ago, Perkins International partnered with six organizations and maybe 10 schools in Latin America,” said Perreault. “Now we work with more than 40 partners and hundreds of schools. So this is a concise way to make resources available to everyone.” “This is a valuable way for programs to associate more with each other and share their experiences,” Rubiolo added. “It can help overcome the distance between them.”