We work in communities on the outskirts of the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia. Cochabamba is a rapidly growing city and the new immigrants to the city tend to establish, either legally or illegally, communities on the edge of the city.
The “favela” style homes in these new neighbourhood lack basic facilities such as water, and electricity. Over time, some of the infrastructure issues improve as the communities become more established and the state-run systems begin to operate, but social problems often remain. The people living in there are usually from very poor backgrounds and have come seeking work. Many of the adults are illiterate and work long hours for low wages.
The children suffer from a lack of attention and of positive role models as their families are unable to assist with their formal education. Children and adolescents are often required to work and many are left to fend for themselves or are expected to care for younger siblings. These children are at risk of becoming victims of physical, psychological and sexual abuse and human trafficking. They lack support to escape the poverty trap.
Therefore, the primary goals of all of our projects are:
- To provide a safe environment for at least a part of the day;
- To remove some of the burden of responsibility and allow kids to be kids;
- To teach and demonstrate values that are at the core of a healthy society;
- To teach children hygiene habits such as washing their hands and brushing their teeth;
- To assist with and augment formal education to improve future prospects.
What do we do?
We work in centers provided by the local community and attend their community meetings to better guide us on what the parents are looking for and to explain to the parents why it is important for their children to participate. As of early 2015, we are running each of our projects in two locations. We are directly benefiting more than 200 infants, children and adolescents from around 100 families.
We equip the classroom and provide essential learning materials for the kids. Each day we also provide each child with a healthy snack and drinking water that most do not have access to at home.
Typically, in each location, a team of 4 to 8 staff and volunteers will work with a group of up to 40 infants, children and adolescents aged between 2 and 17. Although we have rules and the day has some structure, this is NOT a traditional school environment. The children participate on a voluntary basis.
Each day we offer a program of activities that are both educational and fun for the different age groups. The program needs to be flexible as many kids have other extracurricular activities and responsibilities.