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Their Pluses

Located in the province of El Oro in the southwest of Ecuador, the FPANJEZ association has been operating a school for handicapped children and teens since 1990. The center’s mission is to help its beneficiaries become independent and change how the handicapped are viewed by society.

There are many causes of handicap in the canton of Zaruma, but gold mining that has taken place for several centuries has exacerbated the situation.

Small mining companies use extremely toxic substances, such as mercury, to treat gold, tainting rivers and soil and directly impacting the health of local residents.

In Zaruma, many people live by subsistence farming, consuming water and products from a polluted environment. This affects their health and increases the number of children born with handicaps.

Moreover, due to the region’s geographic isolation, women and their unborn children face health risks during pregnancy, such as a lack of regular pre- and post-natal care, and malnutrition.

As a medical and educational center, the FPANJEZ association helps children and teens with physical, mental, emotional and/or social handicaps gain access to education and therapy.

Without a specialized program, the children’s handicaps prevent them from attending a “normal” class. The association mobilizes the means necessary for proper social integration of its target population through the appropriate methods and techniques.

All of the association’s projects are designed with the goal of proper physical, psychological and social development for the children, as well as their integration into a “normal” classroom setting and, eventually, into the professional world and society in general.

Although the members and volunteers of FPANJEZ are extremely committed to their daily work, they emphasize the need for the Ecuadorean government to take an interest and take over the tasks that they perform today through the association.


Offering education and therapy to children with disabilities in Zaruma.

Coast / El Oro
Health Education
Kids Adolescents Young adults


March, Friday 17 2017

December, Friday 9 2016

November, Tuesday 8 2016

Hippotherapy class

July, Friday 15 2016

This is one of the most important and necessary areas of the institution where horses are used as natural instruments for the rehabilitation, education and reeducation of disabled and non-disabled people. It improves the quality of life and personal skills to the maximum.

The institution counts with the everlasting support of teachers and the youth who receive education in the form of occupational therapy. Likewise, the institution counts with the support of Diego Aguilar, a former student who has demonstrated being completely responsible and committed.


July, Tuesday 5 2016

July, Tuesday 5 2016

June, Monday 20 2016

Classes are starting again for the year 2016-2017 for the students of FPANJEZ

June, Wenesday 1 2016

On May 2nd, 45 students returned to their special School Don Bosco. Between courses and physical therapies, these young people also enjoy an Equino therapy on each Thursday. Novelty of this year: from now on, they will also beneficiate from a music therapy on Tuesdays. An Ecuadorian volunteer musician will be coming in June so as to make kids enjoy his art thanks to guitar and singing tastes.

The school will welcome a new member in its team as well: la Sra. Augusta, a teacher specialized for students with visual disabilities.

Finally, on May 24th, the National Independence Day further to the Pichincha Battle, 8 students of Don Bosco’s School took part to the event organized by the city hall on the central square of Zaruma. One of them, Carlos, recited a poem right in front of the whole assembly. 

May, Monday 30 2016

November, Monday 30 2015

November, Monday 30 2015

Participation of Fpanjez students to Paralympics Pasaje 2015

November, Monday 30 2015

The students of the Don Bosco specilized school are proud to show the Medalls they won during the Paralympics of Pasaje 2015.

October, Monday 26 2015

Intensive training for the Fpanjez’ pupils

October, Monday 26 2015

The pupils of the Don Bosco Medico-Educational Insitute are training for the Marathon that will take place in Piñas on November 6th. They practice every Tuesday, Wenesday and Thursday mornings : running, physical exercices, the shot… 6 of them will represent Fpanjez during this marathon.

But not only are they training for this event, but also for the Paralympics, that will be held in Pasaje on March 20th, 21st and 22nd.

We wish them the best of luck !and hope it goes well !

A Bingo for Don Bosco Medico-Educational Institute

September, Wenesday 23 2015

On August, Saturday 12th, the Don Bosco Medico-Educational Insitute has organised a Bingo game at the Zaruma Urcu’s farm of Zaruma so as to raise funds and finance the activities that will be held within the year. A pressure cooker, rice cooker, a suckling-pig, a hen, and also considerable quantities of milk, rice and sugar… These are some examples of the varied packages we hoped winning during this evening.







Even before the game starts, the gamers had already taken their places with their Bingo game grids right in front of them, ready to play. On the other side, the mums of the children of the medico-educational institute had everything prepared: empanadas (a sort of turnover stuffed with meat and salted ingredients) rice, chicken, pies and more! Concerning the fathers, they came with a few of their friends and held a little bar service all night long to get fresh supplies to everybody.

That evening was so successful! It first enabled the medico-educational institute of Don Bosco to raise money thanks to the sales of Bingo grids and drinks during the game. But for Zaruma’s inhabitants, families, children, friends, teachers and students of the FPANJEZ foundation, it has also been the occasion to meet each other again in a friendly atmosphere and all around a Bingo game to support with pleasure and without any prejudices the students with disabilities of the Don Bosco’s medico-educational Institute.

September, Monday 21 2015

September, Thursday 17 2015

September, Monday 7 2015

Participation of Fpanjez students to Paralympics

September, Monday 7 2015

Students from the medico-educational center of Zaruma have successfully passed the athletic events adapted to their disabilities that took place the 1st of August in Machala.

Four students of the Don Bosco medico-educational center of Zaruma have come with their parents and some of their teachers in Machala so as to participate to the Paralympics. After several weeks of intensive training in Zaruma, Juan Andrés, Andrea, Diego and Luis, gave the best of themselves to be successful at the sprint (25 and 50 meters), jumps and shot put events. Our little athletes lived great moments, so much that directly on the next Monday, they proudly told their mates about the sport achievements they realised two days before during these Paralympics. On August, Friday the 14th, to reward the efforts of our four brave athletes, a touching and well-deserved tribute has been organised for them. All the necessary ingredients to make the ceremony successful were gathered: medals reward, applauses, hugs and kisses from their mates, parents and teachers, and in addition, ice creams and sweeties for the most foodies, rather saying, for everyone!

However, do not think that kids and teens from the medico-educational center got some time to relax: they are already training hard to wear and represent Zaruma’s colours for the next Paralympics that will take place around November and to which will participate, this time, all the students from the center. 

August, Saturday 1 2015

July, Thursday 16 2015

February, Friday 27 2015

Fpanjez Foundation receives award for equine therapy!

December, Friday 19 2014

The integral rehabilitation project based on equine therapy, led by the Fpanjez Foundation’s teachers, which we spoke about in a previous article, was awarded a prize at the District Science and Technology Fair organised by the Education Ministry.

Children from the equine therapy class attended with their parents, and the teachers responsible for the project, Mariana Centeno and Silviana Leon, gave demonstrations.

We are overjoyed by this official recognition of the work carried out by the Fpanjez Foundation, rehabilitating people with disabilities using alternative therapies.  Congratulations!

Translated by Amy Porter

Equitherapy: plenty of benefits for disabled children!

October, Thursday 23 2014

Over the last few weeks, equitherapy sessions have resumed at Fpanjez! Every Thursday morning, the youngest children take part, with great enjoyment. They have forgotten their initial fears and make the most of every moment.

The instructors in charge of these sessions are supported every week by a serviceman trained in equitherapy and by a groom who looks after the horse throughout the week.

A committee composed of several of the children's mothers has been formed to manage the contributions made by the families according to their needs and used for the purchase of the horse and its maintenance.

In addition, the association has entered into a partnership with the Elipe mining company which has enabled them to acquire a second horse, ensuring that all of the children, even the oldest, can benefit from this therapy, the results of which are already visible.

Fpanjez participates in comparsas of Zaruma !

July, Saturday 19 2014

This year, festivities honoring the patron saint of the city, Virgin Carmen, were held by the inhabitants of Zaruma during two weeks. Among processions, religious ceremonies, traditional dances and sports competitions, the parade of July 19 represents the apotheosis of the event. This year’s theme was South America.

To be involved together with other schools of the city, the students and staff of the Fpanjez association prepared themselves for three weeks in order to present their float and a dance honoring Mexico. All in all eight pair of student/teacher accompanied the Reina de Mexico, Andrea, during the procession.

As with each participation in a public event, the pupils were happy to be put forward.

Thus, the fight against all prejudices and discrimination towards the handicap gives momentum to the acceptance of our differences!

Translated by Marie-Catherine Arnal

FPANJEZ celebrates Zaruma's independence!

November, Tuesday 26 2013

To celebrate its 193 years of independence, as with every year, the town hall of Zaruma organised a parade bringing together the students of its schools and colleges.

And so, dressed to the nines in their uniform, the young beneficiaries of FPANJEZ, accompanied by their teachers, marched through the roads of the town under the admiring and watchful eyes of its inhabitants.

Alejandro, a Down’s syndrome sufferer and the son of the founders of the organisation, also participated in the parade. Together, they explained all of the work that the organisation does. They also showed, once again, the importance of taking into consideration and integrating those with disabilities into Zaruma and into society.

Translated by Malikah Alibhai

FPANJEZ takes part in the 19th Olympic Games!

November, Friday 22 2013

From 22nd to 24th of November, all of the special education institutions in the province of Oro came together in Guabo to participate in the 19th Provincial Paralympic Games.

300 or so participants went head to head in events including long jump, sprint, relay, football and swimming.

Two months of training prior to the games saw the FPANJEZ team returning to Zaruma with 35 medals, including 9 gold medals! This was one success story that the local press didn’t waste any time in covering, as soon as the athletes arrived in Chiva’s central square to be precise!

It was so exhausted but extremely proud that they came back home, their minds now turning to the hopes of being selected for the International Olympic Games which will be hosted by Brazil in 2015.

Translated by Malikah Alibhai 

FPANJEZ is participating in a sports event in Zaruma

September, Thursday 5 2013

At the FPANJEZ Foundation’s school, the 5th of September was marked by community spirit. The day began with the “godmother’s” preparation: makeup, haircare, evening gown, etc. It’s Mayra, a young deaf-mute student, who represented the school in the parade. Then all the children and teachers were directed towards the Sultana del el Oro Technical Junior High in Zaruma, where the sports event took place. 

The event began with a parade held by the three participating schools: the Sultana del el Oro Technical Junior High, the 15 de Abril Foundation, which works with blind youth, and, of course, the FPANJEZ school with Mayra at its head.

Afterwards, different games and sports competitions were organised for each child to participate in.

Events like this demonstrate the willingness of institutions and participants to work together so that every disabled person can integrate into society.

The event was brought to a close by a festive period of dancing and laughing.

This is another meeting that will, undoubtedly, be repeated in the years to come!

Translated by Aislin O'Gara

Gardening Lessons at Zaruma Elementary School

July, Wenesday 17 2013

Ondina Feijoo, teacher at Zaruma Elementary school released her students from the classrooms to teach them the basics of gardening. The educational goal was to empower the students in the maintenance of gardens and make them work as a team while also instilling in them the values of respect for nature and environment.

Equipped with shovels and picks they first had to prepare the ground under the advice of their teacher. Once this groundwork was completed the students had to work the ground a little bit every day for the seeds to grow into fruits and vegetables.

This activity was meant to be educational and therapeutic. It compliments traditional core standards and provide therapy. It is indeed one of the Foundation’s goals to offer the students an education that is equally playful and instructive.

Translated by Jean-Louis Davigny and Corinne Choisy-Madon

Christmas and New Year's Celebrations in Fpanjez

December, Friday 28 2012

The celebrations began December 20, 2012 for children with special needs at the institute in Fpanjez. Christmas prayers, a live nativity scene, chorus, and a musical performance… the day was undeniably lively. 

The parents’ association, which was equally involved, attended all the performances. The day ended with a distribution of gifts to the children, who were by then over the moon with the day’s events.

But the surprises didn’t end there! On December 21, the children received a visited from Miss Zaruma and her crown princess, who came to give a small gift and treat to everyone. Honored by this royal visit, the children sang and danced with their guests before warmly thanking both for gracing them with their presence.

The 28th of December marked the end of the festivities. One of the foundation's sponors also came to see the children and distribute small presents. As is customary, everyone then made paper mache dolls symbolizing the organization’s staff, and then burned them to bring good fortune and happiness for the coming year.

The various events and demonstrations of attention and affection were very meaningful for the children, who felt surrounded by love.

For these reasons we enter the year of 2013 with more joy, motivation and enthusiasm than ever before.

Parade and Open House in Zaruma for the International Day of Disability

December, Monday 3 2012

December 3rd, the International Day of Disability, is an important date for associations that champion people living with disabilities.  It was an occasion for the staff of Fpanjez and its beneficiaries to take to the streets of Zaruma to inform the village about the problems surrounding people with disabilities along with all the work the association has accomplished.

The popular parade, which was the first major event of the day, brought together all the teachers and the students of the association, accompanied by the brass band of the school 26 de Noviembre. 

But the showstopper was the performance by Fernando, one of the students of the association who is also a talented baton twirler.  The audience responded with enthusiastic applause, seduced by the performance of this young boy, and the children’s involvement.

Afterwards, everyone went to the main town square where art projects created by the school’s students were on display : greeting cards, candles, Christmas trees, pencil holders, miniature pigs, etc.

The local radio station broadcast the event, which highlighted the work achieved by the center and its teachers.

The media and the general public’s warm reception emphasize the importance of this school for the town.  In truth, society’s acceptance of people with disabilities still has a long way to go. Thanks to these type of events, the association is able to change little by little people’s perceptions.

How you can help


A non-profit association by private law with social or public goals, legally appointed n°0037 from 15th November 1994 Ministry of Economic and Social Integration (MIES)

Originally called « Villa de San Antonio del Cerro de Oro de Zaruma », Zaruma was founded officially in 1549 by the Spanish, whose presence in the area dates back to 1536. The city is situated at an altitude of 1,200 metres on the side of the Vizcaya Mountains, not far from the western Andes to the East of the El Oro province. The county has a population of 23,418.
The city has its origins in the gold mining of the colonial Spanish. Many mines are still operational, although gold deposits are increasingly sparse. In order to maintain the local mining industry, activity has shifted towards the mining of other minerals such as copper and quartz.
The architectural and cultural heritage of Zaruma, due to its colonial past, makes this city one of the primary tourist destinations of the province. Zaruma is also known for its distinctive coffee, production of sugar cane and sugar, cattle farming and cheese making.

Following the birth of his child, who was affected by Down syndrome, in 1990, the Gallardo couple were faced with the impossible task of finding appropriate provision for their child, either in Zaruma or in the surrounding area (the closest centre at that time was in Machala, three hours away by road).
Two years later, in order to raise the profile of this issue with the authorities, the Gallardos brought together parents of disabled children from across Zaruma with APANJEZ (Asociación de Padres y Amigos Pro Niños y Jóvenes Excepcionales de Zaruma), an association that at the time did not hold any legal status.
Despite effort to gain political support and change local perceptions of disability, member of APENJEZ did not succeed in gaining firm support. It was therefore agreed that German Gallardo put himself forward as a candidate for the Ecuadorian parliament so that he could gain access to influential people at a national level. Once elected and in post in Quito, he met with numerous individuals from major institutions and organisations, both national and international, with the objective of securing material and financial support.
The first courses took place in 1992, hosted at the Salesiano School; however, due to lack of space, it was agreed the association could occupy a disused chapel next to the school. After three and a half years the Salesianos wished to bring the chapel back into use, therefore the association was forced to leave this space. Faced with this situation, German Gallardo came to an agreement with the Salesianos that they would rent out the land for fifteen years, and use that land, thanks to the financial support of many partners of the association, to build a welcome centre.
It was in November 1994 that the association gathered the funds necessary to begin work to construct the centre where it now carries out its work. While the construction of this new centre for disabled children and young people got underway, APANJEZ gained legal status with the Ecuadorian authorities, becoming FPANJEZ.

Barrio Don Bosco, Avenida Doctor Carlos Reyes y Marcelo Zambrano, Zaruma, El Oro


Headquarters: +593 (0)7 29 73 374 (Association contact)


The couple that founded FPANJEZ, Alexandra Toledo and Germán Gallardo, are still at the heart of the project and have been fulfilling the role of director since the project’s inception. With the objective of improving services for children and young people with disabilities, they have never hesitated to use their personal resources in order to ensure the association succeeds.
The team, made up of professionals provided by the Department for Education, or directly recruited by the association, directs all their expertise and energy towards the disabled children of the region, offering them education and care specially adapted to promote their development and wellbeing.

To contribute to the integration of people with disabilities in Zaruma and the surrounding area.

OE1. Boost participation in education amongst young people with disabilities.

OE2. Contribute to improving the quality of life of children living with disabilities.

OE3. Help to strengthen the independence of people with disabilities.

OE4. Improve public understanding of the importance of appropriate care for children with disabilities.

1. School for children with disabilities
The association aims through this project to build the knowledge and skills of each disabled child so that, in the longer term, they can be integrated into non-specialised educational institutions.
The educational programme is adapted to the disabilities of the student, which has two key advantages: the child is able to develop to their full potential and gain independence whilst the other students learn tolerance and respect for all people, whatever their physical, intellectual, background or cultural differences. The association is the only organisation to welcome children with mental deficiencies, hearing and sight impairments and mobility problems within the Zaruma area.

2. Care centre for children with disabilities
In order to fully meet the educational and therapy needs of the children the association has created a care centre that runs in partnership with the school.
This project offers a personalised service to each child, it is an indispensable counterpart to the educational instruction they receive at the school. The centre is run flexibly so that each child can benefit from a programme adapted to their specific needs.

3. Independence for young people with disabilities.
The association began this project to help young people with disabilities to integrate with society. The association offers them a variety of workshops on topics such as hygiene, cooking, shopping, so that when they become adults they will be confident in all daily tasks.
Recognising that the degree to which a person with a disability can lead an independent life is influenced by a whole range of factors, not just mobility, the professionals at FPANJEZ do everything they can to stimulate each child and regularly confront them with situations that they are likely to encounter on a daily basis.

4. Workshops for parents.
The association desires that all parents take part in the education and care of their children. With this objective in mind, the association has developed workshops to raise awareness, allowing parents to understand their child’s disability and how they can adapt their parenting to best effect.
The daily experiences of the parents and their disabled children, when shared with the professional team, will inform the development of a personalised programme for each child.
Raising awareness and understanding amongst those who encounter disability, and the consequences of those disabilities, creates a climate of respect that allows people with disabilities to integrate into society.

1. Activities related to the specific objective number one : Boost participation in education amongst young people with disabilities.
Permanent courses for students following an adapted programme of study.
Courses targeted at students with a hearing impairment or who are mute, allowing them to follow an adapted programme of study.
Advice and training for school teachers in mainstream institutions in relation to the specialist tools and resources that are at their disposal.

2. Activities related to the specific objective number two: Contribute to improving the quality of life of children living with disabilities.
Psychomotor therapy (ultrasound, general exercises to improve motor skills, therapy, therapy for facial paralysis…)
Speech therapy (facial exercises, breathing, relaxation, speech and vocabulary) in order to treat problems with speech, words, voice, written and spoken language and overall communication.
Early intervention with children aged 0-5 to help the children to develop key skills such as: following instructions, understanding daily routines, learning social skills, respecting social norms and behaviour, sensory development, movement, language and comprehension.

3. Activities related to the specific objective number three: Help to strengthen the independence of people with disabilities.

•  Provide learning experiences for children that allow them to develop their practical, intellectual and motor skills according to their level of capability.

•  Motivate those children to learn as much as they can in order to manage the challenges posed by daily life.

•  Behavioural therapy: this involves replicating situations that occur in daily life (going outside, participating in sport and cultural events, getting washed and dressed, cooking…)

•  Art therapy sessions: the association provides dance, theatre and sport activities to provide daily stimulation for the students and aid their development.

4. Activities related to the specific objective number four: Improve public understanding of the importance of appropriate care for children with disabilities.

•  Research projects focusing on preventing disability or technical advances.

•  Development of workshops and training aimed at the parents of disabled children. The association requires parents to play an active role in reinforcing the education and therapy delivered at the centre.

Population directly affected:
Around 70 children and young people aged 1-30 have benefitted from the services offered by FPANJEZ during the year 2012/2013.
The social and geographical background of these children is very varied; some are from extremely remote rural areas.
Services are free and open to all, with no age restrictions or means testing of individuals.

Population indirectly affected:
The work of FPANJEZ also benefits the parents of the children at the school through workshops, advice, and indirectly this also applies to the children’s extended family and friends.