Innovation for Social Inclusion
Monica Villanueva has worked with people with disabilities, which enriched her perspective and helped prepare her for the Risk and Safety Department Manager role at Austral Education Group.
“In 2019, while working for the volunteering program of the Lima 2019 Pan American and Parapan American Games, I learned that one billion people in the world experience some form of disability. This figure represents about 15% of the global population, or, to understand it better, an amount equal to the entire population of the American continent. Coming across this information and participating directly in the execution of the Parapan American Games, a multi-sport event for athletes with disabilities, allowed me to understand our world better, showing me the real meaning of inclusion.
Not long after the end of the Games, during the Techstars Innovation Program, I came across Bruna Rondon, Pamela Afiler, and Violeta Quevedo. Cyane Blondet joined the team shortly after. We were all looking to innovate and make a social impact, but something else we had in common was that we all had a relative with a disability and that we wanted to alleviate them in a meaningful way.
In many cases, the mom was in charge of childcare, and it was not unusual to see single mothers raising their children alone.
For this reason, in February 2020, we launched LULU Community, a place where women on the path of the atypical upbringing of a child with a disability could come together. Lulu, worked as a platform where women in similar situations could meet, exchange experiences, and find community support and collective knowledge. Unfortunately, after our first event, we were sent to quarantine due to COVID-19, and we had to migrate to the digital world quickly.
We did several online events, but we always thought there should be a better way. After a couple of iterations, we finally launched LULU La Academia, the first virtual academy for women raising a child with disabilities. LULU La Academia, would not have been possible without the support of LULU Community, allied PWDs organizations, and the 7,000 USD in financial support we received when we won two innovation contests in the education category [LULU received awards from the Rotary Club and Hombro a Hombro].
Today, LULU has launched its first course, providing tools to mothers raising a child with Autism. As we grow, we envision diverse courses in our portfolio, all created in collaboration between moms and specialists.
“Ever since I had this first exposure to the diverse world of PWDs back in 2019, it was clear to me that I wanted to keep contributing to this cause, so when I started in my role as Risk and Safety Manager at Austral Group, I set a personal goal to contribute to a more inclusive and accessible operation, raising awareness and creating clear guidelines to provide accessible academic travel, where nobody gets left behind.”