A unique group of Scouts is making big waves in Ponce, Puerto Rico. The first of its kind on the Island, Venturing Crew 765 is paving the way for special needs crews outside the continental U.S.
Puerto Rico Council‘s new Venturing crew joins 16 boys and girls with Down Syndrome, including recent swimming Special Olympics silver medalist Eric R.
For the crew’s first meeting, the Scouts poured into the Ponce Institute for Down Syndrome and celebrated with singing, dancing and fun imitations after reciting the Boy Scout Oath.
“Here we give lessons. I taught the kids the choreography we saw today,” said Rose Farinacci Bonaparte. “I work in the Department of Sports of the municipality of Ponce. I love my work and I help a lot of people there.”
Venturer Marilín R. explained that she was very happy to a part of the crew and said she likes to sing and dance in meetings. “What I like the most is ballet,” she said.
The Venturers’ family members praised the formation of the new crew and shared how meaningful the group is for their families.
“I started as a volunteer, but once I joined the group, it was a great reward,” said Marta Guilbe, cousin of a Venturer. “They have incredible potential and can learn as any other kids. They are highly capable children and, above all, very loving.”
Adaminta Feliciano, mother and president of the crew’s parent committee, shared the same sentiment and appreciates the support from other parents.
“I’ve been with the Institute for five years now. For me, all of the kids are like my children. It is very gratifying,” remarked Feliciano. “Being with other parents helps us to better take care of [my son]. When I learned about the crew I was the first one to jump in,” she continued.
Feliciano says once many of the Scouts leave the education system there are no alternatives available. But with Venturing, Scouts can have fun and explore beyond the classroom.
And the volunteers that initiated the formation of the crew are overjoyed with the outpour of support and participation among families in the community.
“There was a dream. We wanted to show that these children, although having special needs, have many abilities and are able to do many things,” explained Viviane Laporte, director of the social responsibility program at the Roche Company, sponsor of the Institute and Crew 765.
She explained that children on the island with special needs often lack necessary aid.
“I decided to talk with the Boy Scouts council. There were units for children with other health conditions, but not for children with Down Syndrome. The 765 crew is the first Scout group in Puerto Rico dedicated to children with Down Syndrome,” said Awilda Planas, Institute liaison for the crew.
The first of its kind in Puerto Rico, Crew 765 shows how important programs like Venturing are to the Scouts involved, their families, and the BSA.
“We want to prove that they have particular skills and that programs can be adapted to these skills,” remarked Planas. “We are adapting everything to their abilities and skills. It is also an opportunity for the Scout movement to engage with these young people.”
Check out this Spanish language video below from Wapa.TV to hear more about how this new crew is making big waves in Puerto Rico and head to the gallery on the left for the Spanish-language newspaper article.