Héctor — and Maryknoll project in Bolivia — progress, despite COVID - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Héctor enjoying his time with the therapist

Héctor is a 5-year-old boy who lives with his family in the small, tropical farming town of Entre Rios, Bolivia. In Entre Rios Maryknoll Lay Missioners has a program that provides integrated assistance — health, education, vocational orientation and skill building — to children, youth and adults with disabilities.

Héctor has a wonderful smile, laughs easily and is a terrific joy to his parents. Shortly after his first birthday, however, his parents began to notice that their son did not seem to be making the strides that a 1-year-old would generally do in communicating his likes and needs. This communication challenge became more pronounced as Héctor grew older.

At age 4, and as a result of our networking with schools, parents, neighborhood groups and others, we met Héctor.

Héctor blowing bubbles at his home

He had a very noticeable gap in his language development. He could only speak one or two syllable words and could not put together a sentence. His attention span was very short. He would put his hands over his ears whenever there were loud sounds and would show strong signs of fear whenever he was asked to go into new environments such as a neighbor’s home.

He seemed to be facing a bleak future when we first encountered him.

We brought in a speech specialist, and she confirmed our suspicions that Héctor is autistic.

We learned that he would require many sessions of therapy, yet the COVID pandemic was beginning. Our therapist bravely agreed to do a few home visits to work directly with Héctor and to teach his parents. These visits were then reinforced, using WhatsApp to send teaching videos and for virtual coaching sessions. Héctor´s parents never missed a single session.

Héctor using WhatsApp

We recently verified Héctor´s progress. He can now respond to simple questions such as “Are you hungry?” and “What is this?” His attention span is now up to 45 minutes, and he can make simple commands such as “Please give me a cup of water.”

While his eye-to-hand coordination needs work, but he is making progress. Finally, his fear of new environments has decreased, and he can now go to a birthday party or to a public park as his parents have learned to introduce him to unfamiliar places at a slow pace, giving him constant reassurance and listening carefully to his verbal and physical communications.

Although Héctor still faces developmental challenges, his parents — and we — are now happy and confident that he has a much brighter future.

In our ministry, we team up to provide opportunities to over 150 children like Héctor to reach their full, God-given potential. Please join our team so that we can provide more children the opportunity to see a brighter future. You can do so by clicking the button below and donating to our ministry. Thank you very much for your generosity!


Joe Loney
A Maryknoll lay missioner since 1995, Joe Loney oversees a social-inclusion project for persons with disabilities (Avancemos Juntos para la Inclusion Social de las Personas con Discapacidades) in Tacopaya, Entre Rios and Cochabamba, Bolivia.