IVAN VALENZUELA/Coachella Unincorporated
United Cerebral Palsy of the Inland Empire has renewed a program for children with special needs in Mecca, Calif. The program will be housed in the Mecca Boys & Girls Club, where an after-school program and summer camp will provide services for children with disabilities.
“It’s been a lot of work and commitment from the organization, the board of directors, our leadership, our CEO, and all the staff involved,” Sofia Campos, the director of programs for UCPIE, said.
The organization used to have five locations in the Coachella Valley. But in 2009, when California eliminated funding for all social recreation programs, UCPIE was forced to close three of its centers. The board of directors decided that through self-funding, grants, and donations, the Indio and Palm Springs locations would remain open.
Since 2009, UCPIE has been working to reopen the three centers they were forced to shut down, including the locations in Mecca, La Quinta, and Desert Hot Springs.
Throughout the day, during the summer, and on afternoons, during the school season, children from seven to twenty-two years of age can use the center for services that may have been previously inaccessible in certain areas of the Eastern Coachella Valley. The services include the in-home respite program, where trained coaches that are certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and basic first aid partner with local families so parents can have time to tend to errands and work. UCPIE also offers Skillbuilders After-School programs, where students can participate in recreational and educational activities that help with childhood development.
“There wasn’t anything else available in Mecca,” Campos said. “For children with special needs, busing them as far as Palm Desert or Indio is very challenging for parents. Their needs are vast, and they need as much support and as many services as possible.”
Campos said that for parents in the Eastern Coachella Valley getting medical help for their children can be difficult.
“It’s actually more difficult to provide services in a city like Mecca than in an affluent community like La Quinta or Palm Springs. Because of the families’ fear. A lot of them are afraid to get services or to talk about getting help.”
Campos said UCPIE is able to partner with local families because of the trust that the organization has built with the community.
“I’m from the east valley,” Campos said. “Our site supervisor is from the area and our three instructional coaches are residents of Mecca. They all grew up there, so they already know us and trust us enough to make it easier for them to enroll [in health services].”
Many of the staff members working at the centers are hired locally. Educators are brought in from local school districts and from parent support groups.
Campos said that the UCPIE has plans to expand beyond Mecca and the Coachella Valley. The organization hopes to open new centers in Coachella and Cathedral City and eventually have programs in every city within the Inland Empire.
“My biggest wish for parents and families is for them to have their needs met, so that their child could be just like any other child,” Campos said.
More more information on the United Cerebral Palsy of the Inland Empire program in Mecca call: 760-321-8184 or email: [email protected]