Delmy Ruth Lanza is a missionary, and member of Misevi Spain, who works tirelessly with children, young people and their families with disabilities. Since 2012, Delmy has worked at the Rehabilitation and Special Education Center in Sacaba (Bolivia). We interviewed her in order to learn more about the problem that people with disabilities among the population of Sacaba have.
Delmy, could you tell us about your day-to-day activity in Bolivia as you minister with people with disabilities?
People living with disabilities are often the most vulnerable members of society and it is an on-going struggle for them to have their rights respected. Very often people with disabilities are excluded from participation in society, thus, in a very real sense denying the fact that they are human beings. On the other hand, since I have been living in Bolivia, I have come to realize that it is people with disabilities and their families who are the first to protest and go on hunger strikes in order to obtain what they rightly deserve, namely, affordable and adequate health care (and that is only the beginning).
Why has Misevi chosen to engage in this ministry?
Misevi chose to accompany and intervene in the situation of the social exclusion of children, young people and their families with disabilities because such individuals are the poorest of the poor, and therefore the very persons with whom we should walk. We join together with them in order that they might be able to participate in the construction of a more inclusive society, a society in which people with disabilities can lead a dignified life with relative autonomy.
In your opinion, what are the paths that lead to the integration of people with disabilities into the larger society?
Those paths are found in actions that advance recognition and respect of the rights of people with disabilities, actions that enable them to achieve full citizenship with the same rights and opportunities that are enjoyed by the other members of society.
And what would be the strategies to achieve that objective?
I believe that it is necessary to continue to sensitize public and private institutions about this situation … and ultimately to sensitize society in general. In that way public policy will begin to reaffirm the rights of people with disabilities. Presently, we are focused on certain priorities in this area, namely educational and transportation, as well as physical accessibility to public offices and buildings. These are important issues because without them people with disabilities are greatly hindered from participating in society.
As a person and as a Vincentian missionary, what does direct work with people with disabilities mean to you?
In my missionary life, my relationship with people with disabilities and their families fills me with humility and admiration for all the efforts they make every day to maintain some stability in their life. Despite all the access and economic difficulties, they will fill out seemingly endless forms and wait on long lines in order to be attended by a neurologist … yes, that is most admirable. Every day I am able to raise my voice in a prayer of thanksgiving for these men and women who continually reveal to me the face of our loving God.