October 1, 2023


Decisions that forged a great Institution

9 min read

The Valle del Cauca Institute for Blind and Deaf Children is a heritage of the city of Cali, an important service center with clinical excellence for visual and hearing health, in southwestern Colombia, which allowed the Cali Chamber of Commerce, the included in the Clinical Excellence Cluster of the region. 

Since its foundation and up to the present time, its greatest value is the committed love with which it works for children and their families and the community in general, through prevention and health promotion programs.

The success of this organization is not the product of chance, it is the result of a clear direction with scientifically designed work, values ​​incorporated and applied on a daily basis, and exercising leadership with a purpose of collective intelligence to create real and ambitious opportunities.

In 1940, this project began with some ‘daring, but brave’ characteristics because the economic and physical resources were very scarce, and the challenge was very great. But, it was the least important thing to Luisita Sánchez de Hurtado , founder of this Institution, who with ‘blind faith’ managed to sensitize medical professionals, businessmen, and government leaders, and get a place with medical and solidarity care for those children, youth and adults with disabilities who lived on the streets of the city.

Thus, the Valle del Cauca Institute for Blind and Deaf Children was born, thanks to an extraordinary woman full of kindness, energy, humility, and the decision to create a home for those who had nothing.

Union of forces and visionary ideas

Luisita’s management and the permanent support of the board of directors, gave way to the donation of the Government of Valle del Cauca, a piece of land in the old San Fernando neighborhood, to build the headquarters of the Institution. A contribution that provided stability and opportunity to develop complementary programs and make child care a comprehensive service. 

There, the School for Blind and Deaf Children was raised, with Luisita as director, and accompanied by Governor Alonso Aragón Quintero, president of the board of directors; and Caleños Enrique Micolta, Joaquín Borrero Sinisterra, Gustavo Lotero, and Ana María Carvajal , members of the same.

The purpose of the School had two objectives: rehabilitation and education. To train competent children, the first step is to help them in their internal development, which will allow them to be independent and useful people to society. 

In 1942, through Resolution No. 078 of July 29, 1942, issued by the Ministry of Government, Legal Status was recognized for the non-profit entity called the Institute for Blind and Deaf Children of Valle del Cauca, (INCYS) with NIT No. 890.303.395-4, with address in the Municipality of Cali – Valle del Cauca Department, which is in force.

This first headquarters, with huge corridors and arcades that frame the central patio, and perfumed by the sweet aroma of ripe mango trees, served as a boarding school for patients until 1979, when one of the strongest earthquakes of the century XX, in Colombia, collapsed the facilities of the Institute.

It was one of the great challenges that the Institute for Blind and Deaf Children has faced and that at the time, it bravely managed to overcome. From this crisis, the brilliant and effective idea arose that became the Institution’s healthcare, clinical and financial support, the Visual and Hearing Clinic. More information later.

Pioneers in inclusive education 

With the closure of the boarding school, comprehensive care for blind and deaf children continues, through specific capacity-building programs through rehabilitation and rehabilitation, conceived based on research work with specialists in visual and hearing health, and special education.

Its spacious rooms were converted into classrooms for basic primary education and comprehensive rehabilitation, where boys and girls were prepared to join regular education schools and colleges.  

The educational project materialized by solving the questions: What to teach? and why teach? The analyzes were exhausted, a productive discussion arose and the right decisions were made to achieve the cognitive, social, motor, and spiritual development of the child. We worked from the Conceptual Pedagogy model, which proposes full human beings in the affective, cognitive and expressive. Loving, caring, and talented people, that’s how the graduates of the Institute are.

At the same time, new possibilities for education, empowerment, rehabilitation, and health were identified. With authority and security to generate necessary changes and achieve progress. 

A way to challenge the established and break paradigms, which allowed us to see beyond what had been happening in Latin America and inspire creativity to innovate processes in the Institution, such as the Early Stimulation programs for babies with visual and hearing problems.

The concept of school for parents was modernized, actively involving families in rehabilitation programs. This is one of the keys to success, joint work, well-coordinated and complemented between parents, children, teachers, and medical personnel. An integrated approach of the medical part, education, habilitation, and rehabilitation. A work that excites in the right sense.

After completing the education and rehabilitation process at the Institute, the children join the regular school because they had previously received psychological, motor, and pedagogical training. Because from the beginning it was considered that education should be inclusive, integrated but not segregated. And, only years later, in 2008, at the national level, the term inclusion began to be used.

Bearing in mind that inclusive education offers more possibilities for psychosocial development and allows the continuation of the empowerment work that has been started. The objective was always clear, social and work integration, to prepare a person who would be able to participate and interrelate in a normal way and to compete in productivity and efficiency.

At the end of the 1970s, when it was decided to carry out the inclusion program for boys and girls in regular schools, the teachers of these centers did not agree and considered that the education of this population should be done in isolated places. 

At that time, achieving an inclusion process was a matter of 3 months of constant visits to the schools, until they were motivated and opened up. When they saw the results and a successful experience, more places were opened for children in regular schools.   

Today, in the educational field, including the higher level, we can say that we are very close to a real inclusion, that which refers to the reception of people with visual and hearing disabilities but in conditions of equity.

Sexuality classes, permanent accompaniment, and training for teachers on the management of blind and deaf people were included; as low vision stimulation programs. 

The custom, in the early 70’s, was that if the child had some residual vision, his eyes were covered so that he would not lose it. Thanks to medical research, this visual remnant had to be stimulated as a support for the rehabilitation of his eyes. And, since 1976, the low vision has been worked on.

Also, the importance of banishing pity and self-pity in order to build a healthy future for children and their families was emphasized. At the same time, values ​​such as love, respect, being supportive, socially responsible, learning to work as a team, being reliable, and trusting the other were promoted. Definitive aspects to achieving excellence in this field. A very good level was achieved in formal and non-formal education, with quality and a humanistic approach.

clinical excellence

In 1983, the initiative to create the Visual and Hearing Medical Unit became a reality, (Today, the Visual and Hearing Clinic ) as a private health entity with specialized services in ophthalmology and otorhinolaryngology, with highly qualified medical personnel, humane and committed to the patient safety.  

This ambitious project arises because the early detection of visual and hearing disorders was considered one of the priority needs for child development. Including alterations in visual acuity from the prenatal stage. At the time, it was thought of as a strategy to sustain rehabilitation programs.

A clinic to attend and serve from prevention, promotion, diagnosis, medical-surgical treatment, rehabilitation, and habilitation. Then in 1988, the opening of the first Surgery Room with state-of-the-art equipment is given.

Four years later, the first cochlear implant was achieved in one of the children of the Institute at the José Antonio Rivas Clinic, in Bogotá. And, in 1995, the rehabilitation of children with cochlear implants began at the Institute.

Thanks to these implants the sounds are integrated, and their oral cords begin to function normally. Already the language of signs, signs, and gestures, goes into the background. It is exciting to see children who already have their implants, reading stories aloud, talking, and playing safely and freely.

Given the high rates of blindness and deafness recorded in Buenaventura, in 1996, a care, prevention, and promotion center were opened. In 2000 the resources to build the headquarters were obtained, and in 2001 the Visual and Hearing Clinic began to function. Later, in October 2006, services began at the Vallado-Cali and Palmira offices.

During these years, a work culture permeated by a series of values ​​that was assumed as a corporate flag was generated. Leadership with a vision of the future, is shared between managers and professionals to guide the institution to levels of excellence in all fields.

Always with clear objectives and with the passion to give the best in daily work. The training focused on the mission and the commitment of the five directors who marked its development during these eight decades.

Already around the year 2000, and taking into account the enormous challenges demanded by the world economy, globalized, changing, and convulsive, the Institute was ‘tuned’ like any company that aspires to ‘play’ in the big leagues, and gave way to scenarios with wide horizons, in which he had to be unique and different. It was time to ensure his presence in time.

It created a high-quality culture with a strategic vision, giving the greatest importance to planning, permanent evaluation, and continuous improvement. Without losing pace with technology, definitive to ensure an optimal decision in each project. 

The opening to the technological advances available in the world was a success for the administrative, educational, rehabilitation processes, and of course, regarding visual and auditory health. 

It began to forge a future for the 1920s, with a series of alternatives and multiple developments focused on obtaining greater economic results in a sustainable manner. Innovative initiatives for an impact value proposition.

Opportunities vs. Crisis 

Between 2018 – 2020, situations occurred that affected the stability, normal development, and progress of the Institute. Like, the sharp drop in income between 2017-18, because of the support of the Christoffel-Blindenmission, a German foundation, whose mission was to support people with visual disabilities, in countries of extreme poverty, and according to statistics released in June 2018, Colombia had already exceeded the corresponding rates. On the other hand, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

In both moments, creativity and teamwork were fundamental in the design and execution of the Sustainability Strategies.  The Institute took a step forward in the use of renewable energy, managed and forged new alliances to strengthen already established programs and projects; and betting, also, on new audiences and projects.

It established new policies in the rational management of resources (Management Matrix of Costs and Expenses), betting on cash flow and cash, as a financial strategy.

The Comprehensive Health Care program positively improved the user experience with an Impact Services Model, consolidating the Patient Safety Program, strengthening the activities of Promotion and Prevention in Visual and Hearing Health, and the Telehealth Service Project.

The investment was made in enhancing human talent, a commitment to the development of skills, conscious leadership, humanization in the service, consolidation of innovation, and research processes.

This Valle del Cauca Institution has positioned itself as a model company in the visual and hearing health sector at a national and international level, at the latter level, with a specific office to serve the International patients.

In this balance of 82 years, it is shown that investing in and accompanying children and their families, yesterday and today, was the best decision, the greatest satisfaction, and pride of the Institute, because they are currently successful professionals, and many others go after them. 

At the close of this historical review, we express the greatest respect, recognition, and gratitude to the founder of the Valle del Cauca Institute for Blind and Deaf Children, Mrs. Luisita Sánchez de Hurtado , and to the ladies, Sara Domínguez de Copete, Stella Basurto de García, and Doris Garcia de Botero ; and Mr. Pedro Pablo Perea Mafla , who were in the General Management during these 82 years creating a solid culture of values, committed to the growth of the company and love for the children who come looking for a better quality of life.

For these directors, recognition for the important developments and advances of the organization, and the greatest gratitude for keeping in mind that people are the center of the organization and its support. Be it the medical and rehabilitation specialists, members of the Board of Directors and Board of Directors, the corporate community, the families of the children, and the allied benefactors. 

11.04.2022 Stockholm

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