Support during the pandemic for children in Quito

by ViaNinos UK
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Support during the pandemic for children in Quito
Support during the pandemic for children in Quito
Support during the pandemic for children in Quito
Support during the pandemic for children in Quito
Support during the pandemic for children in Quito
Support during the pandemic for children in Quito
Support during the pandemic for children in Quito
Support during the pandemic for children in Quito
Support during the pandemic for children in Quito
Support during the pandemic for children in Quito
Support during the pandemic for children in Quito

As outreach activities have resumed over the summer in the markets where UBECI holds its playgroups, the focus of UBECI’s social workers and psychologists has very much been on campaigns to help the children and their families with the many challenges they are facing, challenges heightened by the continuing impact of COVID.

Today we would like to share some of these activities with you.

Over the summer, the Health and COVID Prevention Campaign provided the most disadvantaged families with a bio-security kit, including face masks, sanitiser and wipes. In parallel UBECI continued its workshops informing families about steps to take in case of COVID infection and explaining that many of the ‘miracle’ remedies touted by some, such as the use of Clorox, would actually harm them and not help against COVID. 

The ongoing Emotional Support Campaign focuses on listening to the fears and challenges the children and their families face every day, making them feel that they are not alone and strengthening social and solidarity ties. For these families, poverty and the lack of opportunities and education have always been the greatest obstacles to a better life, with COVID robbing them of the little faith and hope they had left. This campaign also includes ‘a school for child carers’ to help aunts, uncles, older brothers and sisters, who are now, from one day to the next, finding themselves having to take care of a younger niece/nephew or sibling who has lost their parents to COVID.

UBECI started a series of information talks to discourage ‘Coyotage’, ie. people smuggling to the USA. This phenomenon already existed before COVID appeared but has grown exponentially with the ‘coyotes’ exploiting the desperation of poor families who sell the little they have or indebt themselves even further to pay the smugglers to get a family member to the USA. Many of those who embark on the journey disappear or perish on the way. UBECI’s talks share photographs and reports of the risks involved and stress the physical and economical losses endured by falling prey to the ‘coyotes’.  

UBECI are also supporting the families in their effort to return to a more ‘normal’ life in spite of COVID. They have organised clothes and shoe collection campaigns providing these donations to the families most in need. They have also re-started the end of month birthday celebrations for the children in the markets to support them with their emotional health through these very difficult times.

The above are only some of the essential areas of work that UBECI has embarked on in addition to resuming the playgroups in the markets. Some of the other issues they have been focussing on with the children and their families include identifying and addressing domestic violence and anger management, the importance for children to return to school, preventing depression and the risk of suicide amongst the children.

Thank you all for your continued support. It is invaluable.

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As COVID continues to inflict suffering in Quito and Ecuador, school desertion rates are rising as families experience continued hardship. Many children are now suffering from depression.

Currently UBECI can only work in one of the four markets where its playgroups used to meet before the onslaught of COVID. A large hall, where a degree of social distancing is possible, is now being used for playgroups at Sangolquí market. UBECI’s social workers are also visiting the other markets three times a week, talking to the children and their families at their food stands.

Amongst families that usually work in the markets, many have lost their jobs and several families have been forced to move in together in limited space. As a result domestic violence and abuse has grown. UBECI social workers still regularly visit the children and their families at home to check on  their wellbeing. They are also keeping in touch with them by phone.

Children continue to struggle with online learning. Some don’t have an internet connection and, in the families that do, there are no computers and at best only one mobile phone for the whole family. Computer and print shops are still closed.

UBECI has nevertheless found a way to help and teach children when they visit them through interactive stories, designed with the help of the educational psychologist, using drawings and puppets to help with reading, communication and their education more broadly. Positive results of the pilot are leading to the roll out of the project more broadly for children at home and in the markets.

Thank you for your continued support of ViaNiños and UBECI. Your assistance has been essential in continuing to provide assistance to poor children in Quito whose already precarious access to education and wellbeing is being challenged now more than ever.

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In Ecuador, like in many other Latin American countries, COVID continues to wreak disaster disrupting lives and livelihoods. Many say that cities such as Quito are fast reaching herd immunity, as the need to return to work, in particular for the poor in the markets of Southern Quito, who would otherwise not be able to feed their families, trumps the fear of contracting the virus. There are no furlough or state financial support schemes in Ecuador…

School education continues online. WIFI, a computer and a printer are must haves for online schooling to work. Most of the poor children supported by UBECI have no computers or printers, and at times no WIFI either. Quarrelling with their parents and brothers and sisters to ‘attend’ class on a mobile phone results in many children not being able to access classes. Even if they can, many struggle to keep up, as their parents, often illiterate, cannot assist. In these circumstances the children’s difficulties lead to demoralisation and depression, which, coupled with strong parental pressure to help with work in the market, has led to a majority of these children deserting school, reversing in one stroke the last 10 years of success in making school accessible to all in Ecuador. Their psychological wellbeing has also been impacted by a dramatic increase in domestic violence and abuse.

UBECI and the round 700 children they assist have not been able to return to the market playgroups. The organisation has found other ways to assist the children and their families. UBECI’s social workers visit the markets three times a week, talking to the children and their families about their problems and helping with homework. The educational psychologist also supports children who are affected by psychological and physical abuse, visiting them at home or helping over the phone.

UBECI is also piloting a creative project, drawing and writing children’s stories with characters the children can relate to and sharing these with them in their weekly rounds. These serve as a bridge to connect with the children through stories they enjoy, using these as a way to encourage the children to read, to reflect on the content, to share their worries and fears. Initial results are encouraging and UBECI plans to roll out the project across all the markets they serve, as another valuable route to support the children’s education and wellbeing.

UBECI and its staff continue to play a life changing role for the 700 children and families they assist, now, during the COVID tsunami, more than ever.

An enormous thank you to all of you for your continued support of ViaNiños and UBECI. Your assistance has been invaluable in a really challenging year for raising the funds necessary to continue working to offer a brighter future to children in Ecuador.

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The situation in Ecuador has gone from bad to worse over the last 6 months. In spite of a stringent lockdown that was put in place in March and slowly lifted from June onwards, the virus spread exponentially in and from Guayaquil with Quito turning into the epicentre over the summer.

Beyond the direct, dramatic impact on health and the heavy death toll amongst the poor, lockdown has pushed this part of the population into extreme poverty, as the lockdown all but eliminated the already meagre income families were scratching together when markets closed.

UBECI continued to visit the children and their families at home for as long as it was possible. Its educational psychologist has been working closely with and supporting children and families who are victims of the significant increase in domestic violence, by helping them find ways of containing and dealing psychologically with the violence.

3 out of 5 UBECI employees contracted COVID in August, but have now thankfully recovered and are back at work. Communication and support for the families for the moment continues by phone, as the team plans to re-start market activities in the next few weeks.

The market playgroups will be designed to focus on education. Many of these children have not been able to access school or online classes since the start of the lockdown. UBECI’s team will work to ensure they make up for the lost ground.

ViaNinos’ and your support is all the more critical at this difficult time in Ecuador and Quito, in ensuring that the progress made over the years by UBECI in providing working children with an education and access to healthcare continues.

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Thank you again to you all for your continued support of ViaNinos and UBECI, especially at this most difficult of times for the working and street children of the markets of Southern Quito!

Unfortunately the global spread of the Corona pandemic didn’t stop at Ecuador’s doors. The country recorded its first case of Corona virus at the beginning of March. By mid-April Ecuador had become the South American country with the highest infection rate per capita.

The government reacted swiftly with very strict measures – closing schools, total curfew from 2pm to 6am, a complete stop to all but essential activity. In spite of the measures taken, the virus spread at lightning speed.

Whilst we welcome the introduction of ‘social distancing‘ measures, we can’t ignore the impact this is having on the poorest. Confined to small spaces and with hardly any money, it is extremely difficult for poor families to remain at home for long and simply accept the disappearance of what is a meagre income at the best of times, with children especially paying the consequences.

Our partner organisation UBECI writes:

“Many of the families and children we support are no longer allowed to work in the markets, as they are itinerant vendors (although they represent 40% of sellers at the markets). These street vendors earn $ 3-4 a day at the most in normal circumstances. They have now lost the little income they were earning”.

This unfortunately typifies the situation in Ecuador and globally: the poor are hit the hardest by measures taken against the virus, and are at the same time those that can do the least to mitigate the consequences of the epidemic. Unfortunately cases of domestic abuse against women and children have also increased significantly and worryingly since the lockdown started.

Although the Ecuadorian government is trying to offer some relief to poorer families, it has limited resources and can’t offer the sort of support developed countries have.

We can also assume that support for international aid and the willingness to donate to developing countries will suffer as a consequence of the global economic crisis.

Let’s hope that the strict measures taken in Ecuador will soon lead to a visible containment and reduction of the virus’ spread and alleviate suffering of street and working children and their families from both a health and economic point of view.

The outreach workers are continuing their work as best as they can helping the children and their families by telephone with emotional support, health and other advice, and with homework, and providing some food assistance where possible. Think of the challenges of online schooling for these children, whose parents are often illiterate and who at best may have a WhatsApp connection on a relatives’ phone.

It is vital to remain close to these families in this moment of need and assist the children to avoid them dropping out of school now or when the lockdown ends. 

We need to ensure that ViaNinos’ and UBECI’s success over the past years in

Reducing working hours amongst the children

  • Growing school enrollment levels
  • Providing medical care, getting parents involved in their children’s health
  • Educating the children about their rights and how to exercise these

Is not lost, but continues over the phone now and in the market playgroups again later.

At this most difficult of times our partner organisations need our help more than ever and we would really welcome your support.

If you would like to continue supporting the project you may want to consider setting up a recurring donation. Even 5-10 pounds a month would make a difference!

I hope you are all well and are keeping safe in these challenging times.

Thank you.

The ViaNinos Team

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ViaNinos UK

Location: London - United Kingdom
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @ViaNinosUK
Project Leader:
Bridget Higginson
London, United Kingdom
$25,158 raised of $30,450 goal
351 donations
$5,292 to go
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