The Instituto Psicopedagogico de Puerto Rico (IPPR) was founded in October 1949 by Maria Elisa Gomez de Tolosa as a state- of -the -art day facility for her intellectually disabled son. At that time Puerto Rico was one of the most affluent economies in Latin America. Every day a yellow school bus used to bring boys and girls age 4 to 15 for activities and schooling. Over time these children grew older. Since services for adults with intellectual disabilities were limited, IPPR turned into their life-long home. Classrooms were turned into residential dormitories. Today the majority of the population is adult. For many of these adults, there is not even a living relative on record.
82% of the residents are aged over 45 years, yet the school centre, the playground and the swimming pool eerily remain the same. As a result of the fiscal crisis in Puerto Rico the Institute lacks funds.
The focus of IPPR is on providing services. The people who receive services in the Institute have a primary diagnosis of intellectual disabilities. These range from Down syndrome to very severe health and mental issues. Today they are all housed together due to a lack of resources.
The Institute is a private non-profit organization where half of the beneficiaries are a responsibility of the state. Despite underfunding the staff are patient and loving. Their dedication and compassion shows the best of humanity in the most daunting of circumstances.
On Sept 2017 Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico. The effects were devastating. It left a total of 90 billion in damages and took a heavy toll on the human, social and psychological fabric of the country, sending Puerto Rico’s already exhausted economy into a further downward spiral.