Help vulnerable Argentine students finish college

by fundacion programa Integrar
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Help vulnerable Argentine students finish college
Help vulnerable Argentine students finish college
Help vulnerable Argentine students finish college
Help vulnerable Argentine students finish college
Help vulnerable Argentine students finish college
Help vulnerable Argentine students finish college
Help vulnerable Argentine students finish college
Help vulnerable Argentine students finish college
Help vulnerable Argentine students finish college
Help vulnerable Argentine students finish college
Help vulnerable Argentine students finish college
Help vulnerable Argentine students finish college
Help vulnerable Argentine students finish college
Help vulnerable Argentine students finish college
Help vulnerable Argentine students finish college
Help vulnerable Argentine students finish college
Help vulnerable Argentine students finish college
Help vulnerable Argentine students finish college
Help vulnerable Argentine students finish college
Help vulnerable Argentine students finish college
Help vulnerable Argentine students finish college
Gladis completed BA in Nursing on her roof
Gladis completed BA in Nursing on her roof

On June 24, I had the honor of participating in the IV CEPE Annual Conference of Di Tella University. The conference brought together more than 25 education experts , Government officials from Latin American countries, private sector leaders,  and practitioners. The goal of the Conference was to discuss the changes that the COVID-19 pandemic brought to the education sector and the implications for future public policies. The slogan of the conference was simple and powerful: Did we learn anything during the pandemic?

Integrar participated in a session along with representatives of  three NGOs devoted to education that were key during the pandemic: Cimientos, Padres Autoconvocados, and Argentinos por la Educación. Fundación Integrar was the only organization working on higher education for the very poor.

 
The pandemic had obvious negative consequences for our students but also gave our institution the opportunity to review many of the assumptions we had been working with. We explored alternatives  that became attractive precisely because our usual channels of communication had disappeared, and we could no longer put into practice the methodologies we had been using up to that moment. For example, for more than 10 years, geographic targeting was one of the main anchors of the program because concentrating resources on well-defined neighborhoods made total sense.  However, once everything became remote, location was irrelevant and we could organize students according to their areas of study or career stages, which allowed us to develop activities and content better adapted to their needs. We were also able to add resources that were unthinkable until then: some of the volunteer professors that participate in our Support Program live in Argentina but others are in Berlin or Michigan. 

For our students, remote learning had at least one advantage: Buenos Aires is a very large and extended city and for many students the public transportation commute represents a time investment of up to 4 hours a day. Remote access meant that they could also choose which class to attend without having to consider the time schedule and associated safety issues. The time of the day did not matter. However, there were also problems of all sorts…

Gladys, for example, completed the last year of her BA in Nursing on the roof of her house in Villa 21-24 in Barracas because it is the only place where she has good connectivity. Diego took the Physical Education Teacher's practical exam at the McDonald's located at the entrance to Villa 31 because he doesn't have enough space or a good internet connection in his house.

However, the main complaint of the students was not related to technological difficulties but to the permanent background noise, the mixture of voices, radio, television, machinery in operation, and loud music. For this reason, almost all of them chose to study at night, when the neighborhoods are quieter.

 

In one of the surveys we conducted, we asked what they missed the most about their life before the pandemic. We were surprised by the number of responses that mentioned studying, going to class, to the library, meeting with their study group, or with “the friends of the facu (the department)”. Being isolated, they missed their new community. The distancing had shattered what one of them defined as the "illusion of being part of the world beyond the shantytown."

This is the level at which the pandemic caused a very specific wound. Pursuing a university degree implies for our students a transformative process that goes far beyond academic content. Given that  they are the first in their family to finish high school, they lack the social and cultural capital that any child of the middle-class possesses. Social distancing meant they were cut off from that universe they belong to since they decided to pursue higher education. To respond to the need of feeling part of a community united by common interests and shared aspirations, we organized large virtual meetings we called “Conversations during quarantine”. “Conversations” had a purely social and playful purpose, and they were one of the most rewarding things of the past year. The obvious joy and the massive and active participation of the students was thrilling. 

There was another impact we had not anticipated, and puzzled us: the technical difficulties that students had to overcome to advance in their career generated at first a lot of discouragement, but it actually did not last long. I believe that the speed with which we made available to them an arsenal of resources was key, not only because it helped them to sustain the learning curve but also because they knew that, in spite of the lockdown, Integrar was present and active. Not only were we attentive, we also conveyed to them the conviction that, despite the situation, they could meet the academic goals that were set at the beginning of the year, when everything that happened afterwards seemed like science fiction. Perhaps studying was an escape from a very restricted lifestyle and that explains why they took full advantage of each of the tools we offered them, but my team and I believe that their motivation was strengthened by the sacrifices and additional efforts they had to make to continue their studies. This explains why we had a completely irrelevant dropout rate last year, why almost three-quarters of our students met their academic advancement goals, and why all those who were due to graduate last year, did it between December 2020 and March 2021.

So, what did we learn?

1. As an institution, we learned that nothing good comes from being paralyzed because of fear and uncertainty, and that action and quick responses are key. But we always kept in mind that the best decisions and  most creative innovations are always based on data and evidence, not intuitions or feelings. At Integrar, we believe that what gets measured gets managed and we always test what we think we know to confront it with data. Permanent updating, constant review of the information and systematic exploration of measurable alternatives were a compass in the volatile and complex scenario of the pandemic.

2. Understanding the role played by the sociocultural context in the transformative process that begins when a young person decides to pursue higher education, opened a whole new area of work that will allow us to offer a more articulated and content-rich program. We are very excited about this universe of possibilities that we have yet to explore.

3. We ratified what deep down we already knew: for this population the decision to pursue higher education cannot be carried out without a well defined and powerful plan for the future and a lot of determination. We believe that the additional adversity posed by the pandemic, far from intimidating a population devastated by decades of inequity, reevaluated the chosen path.

4. The pandemic forced us to embrace a technological change that was already available but we had not  used. It expanded our ability to anticipate and respond to circumstances that arise daily. It also modified strategies and views that were foundational. Many of these changes will remain because they were powerful and overcoming.

If we think that education is the closest thing to magic, it is possible that technology is the magic wand that can help us open up new and greater opportunities especially for the most vulnerable.  We also believe that it is everyone’s responsibility. 

 

Cordially yours, 



soledad explains how she feels
soledad explains how she feels
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Dear donor

As we start the first stretch of the academic year, it seems important to me to review what we achieved, what was missed and what we could have done differently during 2020. It certainly was not an easy time, but as I look back, what prevails in me is a feeling of joy because in the ever-changing scenario of the pandemic, and all things considered, we did good. 

Very early on we committed ourselves to one objective, and one only: that our students would thrive, no matter the circumstances. To compensate for all the inconveniences of virtual education, we recruited volunteers to teach support classes, turned workshops into virtual training, surveyed our students regularly to assess their well-being, organized group meetings to reaffirm a sense of trust and togetherness, and offered all sorts of complementary courses to make the most of their free time. In short, we constantly innovated, though I honestly believe that the key wasn't so much creativity at finding solutions for problems no one had foreseen, but rather how quickly we reacted and implemented changes.

News from our Scholarship Program

We are very proud of last year's desertion rate, which would have been low even in normal times: despite the context, only 4 students out of a total of 140 dropped out of their career project. That´s a true achievement, especially because virtual learning posed a serious problem for about 13% of the students. In some neighborhoods, connectivity was unavailable or very bad and there were families where younger adults had to find ways to compensate for the lost income of their parents. Also, certain courses or subjects were incompatible with virtual learning: gastronomy, nursing practice, or many subjects in the physical education teaching program. At different times of the year, a total of 19 students requested their scholarships to be placed on hold until conditions improved, and we are happy that, as of today, more than half of them have already resumed their studies.  

We are proud and excited that 66% of our scholarship holders made excellent academic progress and automatically renewed their scholarship in December, while the remaining did so during the summer. 13 students completed 100% of their program, an outstanding accomplishment in times of virtual, solitary learning.  

 
Students 2021

Although we decided we were not prepared to carry out a completely virtual selection process of applicants for 2021, we did accept the request for scholarship from 4 graduates who wanted to crown their technical formation with a bachelor's degree. A total of 102 students have started this academic year. 

Innovations

Above and beyond the pandemic, we undertook an exhaustive review of our internal procedures and criteria to minimize the risk of drop out and improve management general efficiency. After months of hard work, lengthy interviews, and countless meetings, we were able to design a Mentoring Program that capitalized on more than 10 years of accumulated experience, and we also reviewed our applicant selection process.  

The pandemic forced us to explore new meeting alternatives and for the first time, our students living in La Pampa Province shared activities with those from AMBA (Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area).  Conversations during Quarantine, a cycle of 4 meetings was an opportunity for all of us, staff and students, to get to know each other better and to feel part of a larger team, united by common values, goals, shared hopes, and similar aspirations. At a time in which compulsory confinement forced us into seclusion, the enormous energy and joy these meetings sparked were extraordinary. Because they were so successful, these Conversations will continue in 2021, whether we are confined or not.  

To replace the traditional workshops typically held in person, we signed agreements with other institutions to be able to offer our students free access to an array of different training platforms. Thanks to the agreement with AMIA's (Argentinian Israeli Mutual Association) Employment Service they were granted access to a fully stocked library of complementary skills courses and a very dynamic schedule of seminars. We partnered with BUSENCU, a new platform specifically designed to match companies with young professionals from disadvantaged backgrounds, to improve employment opportunities. 

 
Fundraising

We share with our donors the same commitment to equity and social inclusion through knowledge. We seek to foster talent, and we understand that work is not only a source of income but also what gives the individual a sense of belonging and purpose. We are all intertwined: the students have their life project, our know-how helps them achieve it, but ultimately it is our donors who make it happen. 

The companies and corporations that through the years have shared our commitment to a better society were key to getting us through these trying times. Without their unwavering support, we would not have been able to make it. Thank you!

We are honored that in 2020 PAE (Pan American Energy), Bodegas Esmeralda from Catena Zapata Group, and Compass Group chose us to fulfill their commitment to a more equitable and egalitarian society. This is a promising first step in a partnership we hope will grow and deepen.

In 2020 we welcomed 113 individual donors: 24% live in Argentina, the rest abroad. In times as uncertain as this one we are living in, this is a unique privilege for which we are extremely grateful. But our ambition, I must confess, is endless. In 2021 we look forward to welcoming more individuals and companies to enable more young people to realize their potential through higher education, thus forging the future they deserve. 

Our annual Report is in Spanish and you can read here:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ImFwEzxSxE6cZxNPrYlyQe-p-pHxulrv/view?usp=sharing


As we are hit by a second wave of Covid, much more severe and intense than the first one, I am calm and confident: whatever we´ll have to face in the months ahead, we are ready. 2020 was the training we needed to go through this year.

I would like to end with a quote from Winston Churchill: "Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it". Thank you for being part of our team!  Nothing would be possible without you.  

 

Anabella Maudet
Executive Director

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Final Report 2020

Like everywhere else, 2020 was a very difficult year. The impact of the pandemic has been brutal in Argentina.  The world longest lockdown added unimaginable restrictions to nearly a decade of slow economic growth. Schools and universities were closed for the duration of the whole academic year. (In case you are not familiar with the Argentinian situation, you can find further details in the appendix).

In this context, Integrar had 2 main concerns: to provide all the support we could think of to help our students continue with their studies, and to expand our fundraising to ensure that we could support the program throughout the length of the crisis. 

Between March and June, we surveyed our students to assess the impact of the pandemic and the lockdown on their personal lives, their families' income, and health. They live in overcrowded families, in very dense urban settings, unable to comply with social distancing measures and those who are employed work mostly in the informal sector. Since their neighborhoods have poor connectivity, the lockdown added layers of challenge to their ability to stay on track with their studies. 

Priorities, strategies, and methodologies were revised and adjusted, to be able to help students shift to online education and thrive in this unexpected format. We launched new activities to enhance our togetherness in times of social distancing. Last year, 45 volunteer teachers provided academic support to students struggling with online learning (“Programa Clases de Apoyo”). We held 3 virtual meetings where staff and students met online to share experiences, thoughts, feelings, and ideas. These hugely popular “Conversaciones en Cuarentena” were key to strengthen the community.

To improve our student´s employment opportunities, we expanded our network: they now have access to Busencu, a new platform aiming at connecting vulnerable young professionals with first job opportunities, and we have become strategic allies with Kavak, a powerful unicorn-to-be that is in full expansion mode, and interested in adding the rich diversity of points of view that our talented graduates bring to any organization. 

As for fundraising, we thought was that nobody could better understand our mission, than a conational, educated in Argentina and thriving abroad. And we were right! The generosity has been astounding: I am thrilled to report that 65% of our news donors live abroad. Most of them are expats, but some are foreigners, and we are most especially grateful for their support. I am also happy to welcome three important companies that joined in: Pan American Energy, Bodegas Esmeralda, and Compass Group. 

After a challenging year, in the end, December 2020 was a month to celebrate: seven students (all women) graduated, bringing the total of Integrar´s professionals to almost 100. The drop-off rate is insignificant, and our donor base is stronger than ever.

Sometimes we look back at where we were in march, remember the complete uncertainty about the catastrophe that was unfolding worldwide, the concerns that kept us awake, the fear of not being able to respond fast enough, strongly enough … but we did it. We all made it through 2020.

None of this would have been possible without our donors. Your generous support allows us to make real our shared vision of a more equal society through education.

Your gift makes it possible that a talented young boy or girl born on the wrong side of the road, can reclaim the place in society that he or she is entitled to. 

On behalf of our students and staff: thank you! 

Anabella Maudet
Executive Director Fundación Integrar

 

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The impact of the pandemic in Argentina 

 

COVID-19 has hurt no region more than Latin America. With 8% of the world’s population, it has suffered nearly a fifth of recorded cases and almost 30% of deaths. 

 

Argentina was quick to recognize the danger of covid-19, closing borders, and imposing national lockdowns. It was the world’s longest and strictest lockdowns. But such measures have not suppressed the disease: on October 19th Argentina recorded its millionth case and as I write this report, cases are soaring again. It is among the ten countries with the highest cumulative caseloads. In terms of deaths as a share of the population, it ranks just outside the top ten. One explanation for this is that we have one of the world’s highest urbanization rates: according to the World Bank development indicator, 91% of the people live in urban areas. A large proportion of them lives in multi-generational households, where disease can easily spread. 

 

Impact on the economy: 

The lockdown has weighed heavily on the economy after a decade of slow economic growth: in the second quarter of 2020 the economy shrank 19 % compared to the same period the year before and the IMF expects it to contract by 11.8% this year, which is 3% more than South America as a whole. The government has provided emergency aid to much of the population by printing money. The resulting inflation has been tempered to 37%, by price controls.

 

Economic recovery will be slow. The exchange controls and the wealth tax are discouraging investment. This year several multinationals have packed up and much of the software industry has departed. Discontent is loud. 

According to Unicef, 62% of Argentinian children now live below the poverty line. 

 

Impact on education

Schools and universities were closed during the quarantine, from March to November: the whole academic year. The public education system was very slow to adapt to remote work, partly because few teachers and students have good internet access and digital skills. In terms of education, it was a very challenging year and consequences will arise in the future. 

 

We do hope schools and universities will reopen and that the academic year will start as usual, in March. 

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2020 the Unexpected year 


Between December 2019 and February,  we experienced a drop of 21% in our flow of donations because many of our usual local donors were unable to match last year´s accumulated 50% inflation rate. Then the COVID pandemic came and mid-march Argentina declared lockdown.  Corporate donations representing a little over 30% of our income plummeted, conversations that were well underway with new donors were short-circuited, and the fundraising dinner had to be postponed indefinitely. By the end of April, we had half the income we had been counting on.

We then decided to launch our first international fundraising campaign to seek the support of Argentinian expatriates.  The generosity was heartwarming: in just three weeks we raised the equivalent of all of our students´stipend for three months and the donor base increased by 44%, half of them recurrent.

Undeterred by the adversity of the times ahead, we committed ourselves to do everything we could possibly think of to help our students sustain their academic project and to keep staying close and together … even if those words suddenly sound inadequate in times of compulsory social distancing. We set up an academic support program and provided them with constant motivation, support, guidance, and mentoring. 

Like everywhere else, the pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll on low-income families: many lost a large part of their income, several students became ill, the switch to virtuality was a huge challenge for a population that doesn´t always have efficient computers and lives in neighborhoods where wifi connection is usually bad. Here, in the southern hemisphere, the first half of the academic year has just finished and we can proudly declare that 81% of Integrar´s students are up to date. 

The pandemic has hit the whole world, but in some places, things are a bit more challenging: Argentina entered the 5th month of total lockdown, the recession is brutal and inflation is expected to be explosive. We understand this is a dire scenario for everyone, individuals, and corporations alike, so we are directing our fundraising effort outside of the country. We are also building a network system to help our graduates get back on their feet once the health crisis is over. 

Like Nelson Mandela, we believe that education is the most powerful tool to change the world and that what is lacking is not talent, but opportunities. It is our privilege to know that many smart and courageous young men and women can fulfill their right to higher education with your help. 

Thank you for your support. Together, we are unstoppable! 

Thank you! 

 


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Organization Information

fundacion programa Integrar

Location: Ciudad Autonoma de Buenos Aires - Argentina
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @FPIntegrar
Project Leader:
anabella maudet
Ciudad Autonoma de Buenos Aires, Argentina
$43,789 raised of $80,000 goal
 
470 donations
$36,211 to go
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