Things That Matter

Deaf Students At A Catholic School In Argentina Are Telling Their Story Of Abuse And Neglect By Priests

Justice may soon be on the horizon for as many as 20 victims who say they were sexually abused, including cases of rape, between 2004 and 2016. Priests Nicola Corradi, 83, Horacio Corbacho, 59 and a former gardener Armando Gomez, 49, are all facing charges of sexually abusing deaf children in their care. The shocking case has sent shock waves through Argentina’s society and the Catholic church. The terrible acts occurred at the Provolo Institute in Mendoza, a Catholic school for deaf children that was founded in 1995 and in which Corradi headed until his arrest in November 2016.

People in Argentina are looking for answers and are asking how this horrendous crime could have happened?

Credit: @revistasemana / Twitter

The two priests and gardener appeared in court Monday to face their long-awaited charges of sexual abuse. The three men face prison sentences of up to 20 years in some cases, up to 50 years in others. The trial, which is expected to last two months, will hear testimony from 13 victims who suffered negligence and abuse between the ages of four and 17, relating to 43 offenses.

News of the abuse at the school broke at the end of 2016 and created a huge scandal. The scandal grew when it became clear that Rev. Corradi was behind the charges. It has been reported that Corradi was accused of similar allegations at the Antonio Próvolo institute in Verona, Italy. Pope Francis, an Argentine, has since been notified that Corradi was behind both allegations but has yet to comment publicly despite on the matter despite his close affiliation. 

There has already been one sentencing in wake of the scandal. Jorge Bordón, an institute employee, was sentenced to 10 years in prison last year on charges of rape, sexual touching, and corrupting minors.

One of the victims has spoken up about his emotions going into the trial and his search for justice. 

Credit: @news1130 / Twitter

Ezequiel Villalonga,18, is one of the victims of the pedophile priests, says that he was preyed upon at the school as a minor. Villalonga is deaf which makes the case even more heartbreaking. Now, he’s getting the chance to tell his story as the trial goes to court.

“I think that everything in the Church is fake. Everything they made us read, recite, the way (they said) people should live,” Villalonga told the AP in sign language right before the start of the priests’ trial on Monday. “I think they lie and that they’re demonic.”

Villalonga was sent to the school when he was 4 years old after his mother found out her son was deaf when he was only seven months old. For many of those years at Provo, he was only allowed to go home on weekends and spent the majority of his days there inside a massive building with little to no contact. Despite the school’s specialized mission in helping deaf children, he didn’t teach him how to speak during his time there. It was until he was an adult he learned sign language. 

“Life there was terrible. We didn’t learn anything, we couldn’t speak to each other because we didn’t know sign language,” he said. “We would write without knowing what it said, and when we asked other classmates, no one understood anything.”

Things haven’t been easier for his mom, Natalia, who says her family has had to pause their lives due to the case and the horrors that have happened to her son. 

“I am super-nervous, anxious and I hope for justice; that this ends soon so my son can move on to a new stage because this is very hard,” said Natalia Villalonga told the Washington Post.

While the trial is just getting started, the trauma and disbelief for many of the young victims have gone on for too long.

Credit: @Crux / Twitter

Paola Gonzalez’s daughter, Milagros, who is now 16 years old, had been one of those 20 abused while attending the Institute. Gonzalez was shocked and angry when she found out what had happened to her daughter at what she considered at one point, a prestigious institution. 

“You should have seen her little body when she went into (the Provolo). She was so small,” Gonzalez told the AP. “I don’t understand, I can’t imagine such evil. How could they do so much harm to such a fragile creature?” 

READ: A Brazilian Gang Leader Thought He Could Use A ‘Scooby-Doo’ Tactic To Escape Prison

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Sol de Bernardo Has A New Outlook On Education Thanks To Papumba

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Sol de Bernardo Has A New Outlook On Education Thanks To Papumba

If there is one thing the pandemic has proven to be essential, it’s the internet. For Sol de Bernardo, head of content creation at Papumba, access to technology should be “a basic right.”

Adjusting to remote learning was tough for students when lockdowns were implemented around the world last year. The parents of the children also took a toll while trying to balance child care, school, and work at the same time.

“During this pandemic, I am a believer that technology is a great ally for those who could have the connection and technology to continue learning,” de Bernardo told mitú.

Unable to physically interact with friends, many children have spent hours endlessly scrolling and gaming without limits. Apps like Papumba are trying to add meaning to a child’s screen time easing parents’ concerns.

Papumba is an educational gaming app geared for children ages 2-7.

Photo courtesy of Apple

De Bernardo says the app has become “a resource widely used by parents to entertain and educate their children in this time” after seeing a spike in subscriptions.

However, for low-income families in Argentina where Papumba is based, many children are vulnerable to the lack of connectivity.

“There is a big inequality problem [and] it’s not a distant reality,” says de Bernardo.

In Argentina, 75 percent of children from low-income families don’t have access to computers. Out of those that do, 36 percent don’t have internet access.

To accommodate families Papumba often lowers their monthly prices, even offering promo codes but de Bernardo wishes access to tech could be given throughout.

A proud Latina in tech, de Bernardo’s journey was not instantaneous.

Photo courtesy of Apple.

De Bernardo started out as an educator and that background got her interested in the connection between education and technology. This intimate knowledge of the specific issue led her to bridge that gap.

“Privileged” to be working in tech, de Bernardo is encouraging other young girls to take an interest in STEM. Some advice de Bernardo has to offer young girls is to first get access to a computer, network when you can, and be confident.

“It may be difficult to have confidence in a world full of things that aren’t always good for women, but trust yourself, be dedicated, and above all, be resilient and humble,” she says.

While still a young company, de Bernardo hopes to develop more tangible devices for children to use in classrooms like high-tech dolls and books. However, her current focus is on quality education through the app.

De Bernardo wants to push Papumba to include educating children on their emotional wellbeing.

Photo courtesy of Apple

“We do not talk about emotions enough,” she says. ” We have an activity to recognize emotions where an animated child will form emotions and explains them so the children can understand that there are different emotions and it’s okay to have them.”

When introducing touchy subjects like bullying, de Bernardo finds it important to focus on teaching young children solutions to dilemmas explaining that “the explanation of the problems may not be easy for a 3-year-old to understand.”

Nevertheless, delivering context in a simplistic way is included in such activities. Most recently, the app released a game inspired by the pandemic.

An instant success, the game introduces the imaginary town of ‘Papumba Land,’ where kids can engage in replicated outdoor activities such as: hosting a barbecue, partying with friends, or having a picnic in the park.

Last month, in-person learning returned to Argentina, but de Bernardo hopes that a year online changes the approach in future children’s education.

“I think that technology can help us in this by putting adding a little fun for the child,” she says. “Learning does not have to be [treated] like a mandate where you have to learn something and repeat the year if you fail. There has to be something for the child to want to learn.”

“[Working at] Papumba has helped me understand that you can create something fun for children to enjoy learning and not make it seem like going to school is a nuisance,” she says.

The App Store featured Papumba for Women’s History Month.

READ: Nicole Chapaval Advocates For More Latinas In Tech Through Teaching App Platzi

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NFL Lineman Justin Herron Saved A 71-Year-Old Woman Who Was Being Sexually Assaulted

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NFL Lineman Justin Herron Saved A 71-Year-Old Woman Who Was Being Sexually Assaulted

Fans of the New England Patriots offensive lineman Justin Herron know by now that he’s got a thing for being in the right place at the right time. After all, his career relies on it.

Still, most likely didn’t know that the 25-year-old football player has a hero’s spirit as well.

This week, the lineman was honored by an Arizona police department for his role in saving a 71-year-old woman from being sexually assaulted.

On March 21 a 71-year-old woman was taking her daily stroll in Kiwanis Park in Tempe, Arizona when a 30-year-old man attacked her. The man, now identified as s Kevin Caballero, threw the woman to the ground in the park and attempted to remove her pants.

Herron and a Phoenix resident, identified as Murry Rogers, were present during the assault attempt and intervened.

“It was a crazy experience,” Herron stated during a news conference on Wednesday, according to NBC affiliate KPNX. “It was something that I never dreamed that I thought I would see. You see it in movies and TV all the time but you never think it’s gonna happen in real life until it does. In that moment, I was in shock. It was 11, it was in the middle of the day, not one cloud in the sky, and in a very open field, and the fact that it happened there at that time was very shocking.”

At the time of the incident, Herron was working out by the lake and Rogers was getting ready for a birthday party in the park for his 15-year-old daughter.

“I’m a football player, I’m kind of big,” Herron who is Herron, who is 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds, stated during the news conference. “I try not to be too aggressive with people knowing I could potentially hurt somebody. I do have a loud voice. I yelled, told him to get off of her, and then yanked him off and I told him to sit down and I told him to wait until the cops come.”

For their actions, Herron and Rogers were presented with Outstanding Service Awards by the Tempe Police Department.

“These two individuals stepped forward and really, truly saved her life,” Tempe police chief Jeff Glover stated during the ceremony.

According to the Today Show, “Herron has been in Arizona for offseason training ahead of his second season with the Patriots. The team’s sixth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft out of Wake Forest University said he was just reacting when he saw the woman being attacked.”

“And in the moment, I wish I could tell you what I was thinking, but I just knew that someone needed help,” Herron said. “… All I could do was just rush myself over there and make sure and help the victim, and make sure that I comfort her and be the best person I can be.”

Herron and Rogers were able to meet with the woman who has yet to be identified.

“Over the past several days, I have thought about her and pictured her face, so it was really nice moment, and I’m really glad I got to meet her,” Rogers said during the ceremony.

“My parents always talked to me about it, if there’s someone in need, make sure you can help them and be the best you can be,” Herron added. “I don’t want this to happen again, I don’t want to have to save someone else’s life again, but I’m glad I was able to save someone’s life on Saturday.”

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