Sister Rebecca Trujillo
Weaving Threads of Solidarity and Compassion
For 21 years, eight different foundations in Holland supported Sister Rebecca Trujillo's ministry with Special Families in Nicaragua. These agencies joined in funding her expenses for a month-long visit to Holland this summer. In addition, they held a formal exposition to launch a book, entitled Faith. Rebecca wrote the forward and helped compile reflections from students, teachers and community leaders in this solidarity work, sharing the impact on their lives. The book is in Dutch, English and Spanish.
How did all of this evolve? In 1999, Arie Erkelens, a program director in Holland for people with disabilities, visited Nicaragua. For two weeks, he worked with mothers of children with disabilities. On returning to Holland, Arie changed his job and began a foundation to support this ministry. He encouraged Ben Book, teacher manager at a high school for both university and technical careers, to join him by engaging students in raising funds for Special Families. When the school offered Sister Rebecca a large donation, she said, "I cannot accept it unless you create relationships with the Special Families in Nicaragua." That way the students would grow in compassion, rather than just give money. For 20 years, students, parents and staff traveled to Nicaragua and created those relationships.
During this summer's visit, Sister Rebecca thanked donors, volunteers and foundations for their work with Special Families. Former students, now in their 20's and 30's, told Sister Rebecca how these relationships influenced their lives and career choices. Making this visit helped Sister Rebecca in the complex task of closure of the SNDdeN Nicaraguan mission this year.
Story by Sister Rita Sturwold, SNDdeN, first published in the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur U.S. E News, September 2022, Vol. 13. No. 17
Note: Sister Rebecca has returned to the United States in 2022 amid what's happening in Nicaragua.
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.
In 2010, 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.”
Read the update from Sister Rebecca's ministry: "...Yet trying so hard to dream."