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

UBECI’s activities in the playgroups at the markets have now fully resumed. There is a lot of catching up to do after two years of frequent lockdowns!

COVID restrictions have taken their toll on physical and mental health, also leading to an increase in domestic abuse, and a broader increase in poverty and vulnerability of the, mainly indigenous, children in the markets of Southern Quito where UBECI works.

UBECI has been focussing its work on strengthening the children’s emotional and physical health, and teaching them and their mothers’ about the rights they are entitled to.

The playgroup activities are increasingly using ‘stories’ to explain issues and challenges and how to deal with these, particularly relating to the impact of COVID, building children’s families and familiar surroundings into these tales, and helping to nevertheless highlight positive aspects in the children’s daily lives, in spite of the many problems they are grappling with. Each tale also identifies a number of new words, expanding the children’s Spanish vocabulary, as many grow up only speaking Quichua, an indigenous language.

UBECI has also been supporting the children’s mothers with workshops to strengthen their skills, but also their emotional resilience eg. helping them with anger management, with demonstrating affection towards their children, empowering them.

Vilma is the mother of one of the children who used to regularly attend the UBECI playgroups. Neither she nor her son have been at the market in recent months as she has been diagnosed with cancer and has been struggling with both her financial and emotional situation. Her son hasn’t been able to get the help with language and school work he used to get from social workers in UBECI’s playgroups. When UBECI learnt about the family’s circumstances they started assisting her son with additional educational material and regular home visits to support his education. Vilma has also benefited from joining the UBECI mother workshops, where she has had the opportunity to share her experience and has received valuable support from UBECI and other mothers.

UBECI recognises that together with helping children directly in the playgroups, there is at times additional work that is needed to strengthen the child’s home environment, through the provision of wider support and encouragement to mothers, who struggle to make ends meet with their meagre market earnings and who are sadly often victims of abuse at the hands of their partners.

UBECI wouldn’t be able to provide this assistance to the indigenous children in the markets of Southern Quito without your continued support. Thank you!

The ViaNiños Team

Learning at the market
Learning at the market
Market play group
Market play group
UBECI family in the market
UBECI family in the market
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Christmas celebrations!
Christmas celebrations!

Over the last year there has been great progress when it comes to the COVID vaccine campaign reaching the vast majority of the population in Ecuador, including the poorest.

After almost 18 months of online schooling secondary schools returned to in class teaching in September, but had to stop soon after and return online due to COVID cases soaring amongst teachers and students. Plans are in place for all schools to return to classrooms at the beginning of February but, as everywhere else around the globe, Omicron is spreading fast and calling into question whether this would be a wise move…

The number of children working in the markets has grown significantly compared to pre-COVID times. For many, access to the internet and the little online schooling they can listen into is easier from the market than from home. Schools have started sending out paper exercise books with teaching modules for children to work through and submit assignments. Half of the children in the markets are now schooling in this way. The other half, particularly children between the age of 5 to 8, have unfortunately dropped out of school. It is difficult for this younger age group to find the self-discipline to attend online classes or complete assignments. Their parents, themselves often illiterate, cannot help.

In UBECI’s playgroups at the markets the social workers assist the children with their assignments, provide older children with tips on where to find help online (for instance online maths classes), and spend most of their time on basic literacy and numeracy lessons for those children who are no longer attending school.

After 10-15 years of enormous strides forwards with schooling rates up at 95-96% by 2019, one of the longer lasting damaging consequences of COVID will be the spike in the level of school desertion and children missing out on an education. It will be very difficult for them to ever catch up again once in-class schooling resumes, a problem that will affect the poorest in particular for years to come.

UBECI has also recently started a new workshop run by a psychologist and aimed at parents, particularly mothers, helping them to work on and improve their emotional heath. Many parents have lost close relatives to COVID. UBECI’s work focuses specifically on helping them learn how to identify and manage pain and anger, thus also improving their interaction and relationship with their children and family more broadly. We’ll keep you posted on progress.

A big Thank you for your continued support.

Activities in the markets
Activities in the markets
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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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ViaNinos UK

Location: London - United Kingdom
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @ViaNinosUK
Project Leader:
Bridget Higginson
London, United Kingdom
$30,514 raised of $30,450 goal
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