Fellow Since 2004
This profile was prepared when Estela Villareal was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2004.
The New Idea
Estela uses traditional leisure and play environments to help impressionable young people become more connected with lifestyles different from their own. Nondisabled youth learn to accept and integrate their disabled counterparts into the mainstream world, while disabled children benefit from a more engaging and inclusive environment. Although great technological strides in recent years have accommodated handicapped use of public spaces, Estela believes that disabled people can only achieve complete social integration through an active interface and physical exchange with nondisabled people. By teaching children how to interact so that people with special needs can fully take advantage of existing public structures, Estela helps kids socialize more effectively, thus removing the stigma of disability. What began in 1987 as a summer camp to bring together disabled and nondisabled youth has evolved into a multifaceted education and recreation program that encourages youngsters to learn about each other in a cooperative, fun, and natural way. Through these developed relationships, Estela prepares Mexico's youth for more participatory, active, and inclusive lives.