Training advocates with Eva’s Heroes in San Antonio
Eva’s Heroes is a nonprofit organization founded in 2006 by actress Eva Longoria and Board President Christiane Perkins-Garcia. The organization is dedicated to enriching the lives of individuals with intellectual special needs by providing an inclusive setting built on four tenets: interact, grow, learn, and love. Based in San Antonio, Eva’s Heroes focuses on helping teens and young adults 14 and older who have intellectual special needs to integrate and flourish in society.
Demystifying individuals with special needs
In early 2018, Eva’s Heroes received an award of $33,000 and 10 laptops from the Microsoft Community Empowerment Fund to support the organization’s Volunteer Mentor Training Program. This project creates meaningful training content for volunteers who work alongside individuals with intellectual special needs. The content will be shared throughout the community with other non-profits, volunteers, schools, and key community groups that work with individuals with disabilities.
The basis of the program is a video training series, including sensitivity and safety components, which introduces potential volunteers to the types of individuals, behaviors, and situations they might experience. The series also informs educational programs about how to support, speak with, hire, and provide more to individuals with disabilities in the community. The volunteers who receive the training content make recommendations for the content and design of the program.
Eva’s Heroes works in a variety of areas to boost experience in occupational research and hiring with special needs. This project promotes many relevant career paths such as special education, occupational therapy, research, and more. It also supports professional development and jobs for people with disabilities.
Creating advocates and sharing best practices
The volunteers, typically developing teens, model positive and appropriate behaviors as mentors. Volunteers are an integral part of the vision of the growing programs, and there is potential for substantial volunteer development, training, and sustainability. “When we educate our volunteers, we prepare them for real-world experiences, and they ultimately become advocates for individuals with special needs,” said Christiane Perkins-Garcia, Eva’s Heroes co-founder and interim executive director. “For our teen volunteers, becoming a certified volunteer mentor could potentially lead to career fields in special education, occupational therapy, research, or perhaps a lifetime of community service.”
Microsoft looks forward to the opportunity to continue relationships with the volunteers and participants as part of its future workforce. Microsoft will tie in with local NGOs and showcase this curriculum through the Microsoft Retail store.