Sister Rebecca Trujillo, SNDdeN
Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Sister Rebecca Trujillo portrait
Sister Rebecca with children
Sister Rebecca in the community

"Putting moms first to help special-needs children."

Caring for a special-needs child is never easy.

In a major city like Matagalpa, where more than 10 percent of children are disabled, their care falls largely to the mothers. This means mothers are isolated for as long as 12 hours a day. It also means they are unable to earn an income, which feeds the spiral of poverty and hopelessness for the family.

About eight years ago, Sister Rebecca Trujillo started “Familias Especiales de Santa Julia Billiart” to help special children by focusing first on their mothers. Today this organization of mothers, volunteers and professionals provides support to more than 500 Matagalpan families with disabled children. It is a ministry that is often carried out door-to-door, with programs that include home therapy, neighborhood parenting programs and small business development and job training for mothers.

Sister Rebecca explained the focus. “Most mothers are virtual prisoners in their own homes without a way to express their needs. We address their medical and educational needs first. Then we provide spiritual and psychological support, and introduce the mothers to others who share similar circumstances. We show them they are not alone.”

The Benefits of Horse Therapy for the Handicapped

As she researched therapies for disabled children, Sister Rebecca learned how children with almost any cognitive, physical or emotional disability benefit greatly by riding or simply being around a horse.

So she arranged for a horse therapy program, and a donor offered seven Arabian thoroughbreds and land for the program.

“You should see the faces of the children,” Sister Rebecca said. “Horse therapy works in so many ways. It’s especially moving to watch blind children interact with a horse. They touch the rough mane and tail, and then the horse’s soft warm coat, and experience the different sensations.”

Autistic children are calmed by the rhythmic motion of the horse. Sister Rebeccca spoke of one such little boy who was unable to relate or pay attention to his surroundings. “His parents just couldn’t control him. After several sessions of horse therapy, he is calm enough to be with other children. He was even able to hug his father for the first time.”