Sunday, May 12, 2013

Cinco Dedos Centro

My name is Roxy and I’m working on the Strengthening Families programme, with Aldeas Infantiles SOS, which focuses on working to keep families together as well as strengthening existing support structures for vulnerable children and their families within the community.

The work by the Strengthening Families programme is particularly important in Bolivia as children and adolescents constitute almost half of the total population in the country. Children are the future which is why the programme focuses on the care of children through the running of daycare centres from 9am-5pm on weekdays to allow parents to go to work in order to improve their family’s standard of living. These centres are at the heart of the community and, during the evenings, workshops and courses are held for parents on topics such as self-esteem, sexual and reproductive health and family planning in order to strengthen and empower families.

The centres utilise the Montessori method of education which focuses on fully developing the children with all activities and toys designed to have a specific purpose in encouraging intellectual and physical development.
According to Aldeas Infantiles SOS, there are 39 centres in the 8 municipal macro-districts of La Paz, offering its services to 1,690 children and 1,403 families. I’m working in the Cinco Dedos centre, in Periferica, which has been open for just over a month and is one of 7 new SOS centres. It is therefore also a new centre to our programme and has not yet received any ICS volunteers. For this reason, I’m excited to be working at Cinco Dedos as I hope to see positive changes as it grows into a more established centre over the time I’ll be volunteering there.

Cinco Dedos Centre

From the outside, Cinco Dedos gives off a great first impression with its colourful artwork with both a large playground and football court for the children to enjoy outdoor activities. The inside is impressive too with three vibrant, well-resourced rooms; one for 6 months-2 year olds (Lactante), another for 2-3 year olds (Pre-Infantil) and the last for 4-5 year olds (Infantil). All the resources in the classrooms are colourful to attract the childrens’ attention filled with games, charts, tables and chairs at their level.

The Montessori Routine

The Montessori routine has 4 themes, each given their own separate section in every room. The 4 themes are practical life, sensorial, language and mathematics. Toys in these sections have the purpose of improving the childrens’ development in the particular areas. Each morning, after breakfast, the children grab their mats and sit in a circle to start the Montessori routine. The children are asked what day it is, the season and then a child is asked to look out of the window to check the weather. The children are then asked what they did the day before and what they would like to do today. This is a good opportunity for the educators to learn if any of the children are experiencing problems in their home life, such as violence.

The view of La Paz and Illimani from Cinco Dedos

The purpose of opening a centre like Cinco Dedos in the Periferica neighbourhood of La Paz is to help provide families with additional support to look after the children and, in doing so, freeing the parents to be able to work without leaving their children unsupervised or needing to find more expensive childcare elsewhere. This helps relieve the economic hardship experienced by families in the neighbourhood.

There can be many problems that arise from struggling to live in impoverished conditions. A representative of Aldeas Infantiles SOS, Delia, said that in poorer households it is not uncommon for the father to have a drinking problem which reduces his employability thereby encouraging his family to remain stuck within a cycle of poverty. She also went on to say that the difficulties of striving against impoverishment can give rise to domestic violence within these families, and when asked how many children had experienced violence at home; she responded that there are at least two known cases in each centre (the centres range from 20 to 44 children).

The impact of domestic abuse on children can be tragic and those who have grown up in violent homes are statistically more likely to perform learned violence with their peers at the centres. A continuously aggressive child will be observed by the educators who can inform the municipality to intervene. I have already noticed a few children who are particularly troublesome who initiate fights. By writing weekly observation reports on the childrens’ behaviour and their relationships with the educators; I am able to act as an agent of human rights for the children.

Over the next couple of months, I will be working at Cinco Dedos during the mornings and will also be planning and facilitating workshops on Sexual Reproductive Health at the Parent’s Meetings. I will also be partaking in Papanicolaou testing days with centre educators and mothers of the community to provide sensitisation, to raise awareness of the importance of testing and to provide moral support to those being tested.

Written by Roxy Sayer
Edited by Liam Hilton

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