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Havana park becomes haven for special needs children

  HAVANA, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- The Quinta de Los Molinos (The Park of the Mills), a hundred-year-old Havana park, is not only a green oasis in the middle of the Cuban capital, but also the stage of an ambitious social inclusion project, which seeks to help children and teenagers with special educational needs.

  The backdrop of spectacular greenery was named for the ancient tobacco mills, operating there between 1800 and 1835.

  Later was installed the city's first botanical garden of the city and a house belonging to the former Spanish governor.

  The botanical garden hosted research on plants and animals carried out by Cuban scientist Felipe Poey Aloy (1799-1891), as well as numerous experiments on the cultivation of sugarcane undertaken by his compatriot Alvaro Reinoso (1829-1888).

  Now La Quinta hosts about 170 plant species, some of them endemic, as well as over 66 animal species, including mollusks, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.

  The park was named a national monument in 1987, and is frequented by locals seeking to take in its beauty.

  Three times a week, La Quinta is filled with children and teenagers from the nearby Adelaida Pinero Special School, which caters to about 200 students with special educational needs.

  The students have a range of ailments, including Down syndrome, and severe autism. They greatly enjoy the "La Quinta for social inclusion" project, which provides receive classes of psychoballet, painting, animal therapy, gardening and environmental education.

  "The goal is to offer them opportunities for social inclusion, taking advantage of their abilities and enhancing them," psychologist Yisel Gonzalez told Xinhua.

  Gonzalez has been working at La Quinta since graduating from the University of Havana in 2013, and provides her services, alongside experts in botany and veterinary medicine.

  This playful way of learning helps the children in their cognitive and social progress, and above all, prepares them to face life autonomously.

  "Here, they can get in touch with the environment and at the same time prepare for life," underlines teacher Dulce Maria Garcia.

  Garcia has been working at the Adelaida Pinero school for seven years, and highlights the success of the project in helping the children evolve.

  "Two of them have become gardeners and work here," said teacher Dania Martinez, who is in charge of teaching domestic skills such as cooking, washing, scrubbing or cleaning floors.