It was a specific personal experience that motivated Ronel Almeyda Martinez to start the nonprofit Uniendo Sonrisas (Unifying Smiles) in Lima, Peru. As the father of a son with a disability, Almeyda noticed that when his son started attending school it was very difficult for him to gain acceptance from his peers and that he often faced challenges because of other students’ lack of education about people with disabilities. Almeyda saw that he could be a part of changing this experience for children like his son and founded Uniendo Sonrisas.
Uniendo Sonrisas provides workshops in national schools in Peru that promote social inclusion, particularly of people with disabilities. Content is presented in an educational but entertaining way and challenges students to question their perceptions about those with disabilities. Since the organization was founded in 2012, it has worked in 24 schools and provided workshops to over 8,000 students.
Almeyda, who is studying marketing at the Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas (UPC), was recognized in 2013 as a local YouthActionNet fellow in Peru and has benefitted from this community of young social entrepreneurs through their ongoing workshops and learning opportunities. His catalyst into the world of social entrepreneurship might have been a personal one, but Almeyda is undoubtedly helping to lay a foundation for greater social inclusion in Peru through his work.