Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena

by Fundacion Betania Juvenil
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Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena
Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena
Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena
Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena
Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena
Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena
Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena
Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena
Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena
Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena
Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena
Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena
Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena
Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena
Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena
Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena
Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena
Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena
Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena
Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena
Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena
Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena
Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena
Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena
Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena
Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena
Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena
Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena
Transforming The Lives of 50 Children in Cartagena

We have very exciting news to announce, over the course of the last quarter we expanded our service to cover 74 kids, we distributed over 3000 meals and conducted 24 school reinforcement workshops, on top of all this, we are moving to a bigger facility with a capacity for 200 kids! If you want to know how all these happened, please read till the end.

 

Context

Given improvements in the public health situation during the last quarter, we were able to fully resume our in-person activities, which allow us to more directly attend to the urgent need for food reported by the families in the telephone follow-up that we were conducting. To do this, it was necessary to adjust the hours of operation, to bring different groups of kids at different times to comply with social distancing standards established by the health agencies.

Breakfast Club: In this quarter we distributed around 3,000 breakfasts to the kids, and added new beneficiaries completing a population of 74 children. We encouraged parents to take an active part in the breakfast club by accompanying their children whilst they eat. This is because the breakfast club is not just a space where food is given, but one where parents are stimulated to have expressions of affection and attention towards the kids, which is so necessary for integral development.

School Reinforcements: We continued working with kids that are falling behind in their studies, our approach is based on using pedagogical games to facilitate learning, with a special focus on filling the gaps in the children's basic reading skills. This approach has had a great reception among the children since they learn by playing and this motivates them. It is important to mention that the results of these activities will take time to be evident, as some of the children have major knowledge gaps which will take time to address. Nonetheless we already begin to observe small victories with children who begin to recognize letters and sounds.  We are also working on strategies to get more support from the parents in this area as their lack of engagement can be a challenge in some cases, which translates into difficulties in the children’s learning progress.

Creative reading workshops: These activities are carried out with all children from 5 to 12 years old, and they are conducted both in-person as well as virtually through videos in WhatsApp groups.  In these spaces, we encourage the children to read and to develop their creativity, hence using reading as a tool that strengthens learning and the development of their thought process. Through the reading of narrative texts, children have the opportunity to make their own artistic or literary productions. There have been 12 workshops in this period.

Women craft workshops: These activities aim to promote spaces of relaxation and skills development for the mothers, using crafts to develop their creativity, socialize among themselves, and recharge energies. From their feedback, we know that they really value these spaces as they see them not only to develop new skills but also as a form of relaxation and a break from their daily cares.

Family follow-ups: Through telephone calls and home visits, families are followed up on topics related to attendance to the breakfast club, the children’s academic progress, the promotion of responsible parenting practices, and the critical situations they have in terms of satisfaction of basic needs. Families are very satisfied when we visit them because they have an opportunity to talk about the difficulties that they face day by day. Bear in mind that the families we serve have very complex situations, with structural problems that are sometimes difficult to resolve, however, they find relief in expressing their emotions and concerns. These visits are made every 15 days and phone calls are conducted more frequently.

As we said in previous reports, our goal for 2021 is to expand our service to cover 100 children, one of the main requirements for this is to have a facility that is spacious enough to accommodate all those kids and given our current facility does not have the required space, we need to procure a new one. As you can imagine, acquiring and moving to a new facility is costly, but we are excited to tell you that your generosity has played a major role in providing us with those resources, and we are about to start the building procurement process as early as next month!

Acquiring a new facility is one thing, and we are grateful for your support so far in helping us achieve this; expanding the service to cover 26 additional kids and sustain the running cost is a completely different challenge, therefore, it is important as ever that you continue alongside us given us your continued support. This expansion phase feels like sailing to new horizons with many unknown and exciting possibilities, and with your help, we are sure it will result in the material transformation to the lives of many more kids in need.

Breakfast Club
Breakfast Club
Learning Letters
Learning Letters
Breakfast Participant
Breakfast Participant
Craft Workshop
Craft Workshop
Learning By Playing
Learning By Playing
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Many things have happened over the last few months and I am happy to share some highlights with you. At first, let me start by saying that the COVID situation in Cartagena has improved significantly in contrast with the rest of the country. This allowed us the opportunity to resume some activities with the kids in our facilities while keeping others in a remote fashion.

Although the public health situation has improved, we experienced a tropical storm that severely impacted some of the families we support, leaving some of their houses flooded or damaged. This forced us to act quickly to provide temporary shelter for around 7 families whilst we liaised with local workers to help repair their homes, and as after the storm, there is calm, for some of those families this meant having brand-new floors after such a dramatic experience as you can see in the pictures below.

In terms of the core activities, we did not have a shortage of them, below is a list of the main ones and the results they yielded:

  • Health and nutrition: We distributed around 108 liters of milk and 110 grocery supplies to the kids and their families, to help preserve their food security, an activity that left kids and parents alike feeling very grateful.
  • Fruitful utilization of the leisure time: To prevent kids from engaging in the drugs, gangs, and other threats that surround their neighborhood, we decided early on to design activities that help them better utilize their leisure time and that can serve as a replacement for the time they would have otherwise spent wandering in the streets where they are most at risk. To this end, we conducted a series of activities to promote reading habits in the kids and their families as well as promoting the development of artistic and creative skills.
  •  Encouraging responsible parenthood remains at the core of our belief that a child's life cannot substantially change without the support of their parents. This is the reason we conducted several visits to kids’ homes and talk to their parents to help them understand the importance of their children's mental wellbeing and reinforced previous notions to prevent domestic abuse.
  • On the education front, we noticed that some parents did not have the necessary knowledge to help their kids complete their remote schooling assignments, and hence some kids were falling behind on their already limited education. To tackle this, we redouble our efforts on school reinforcements classes with the children most at risk and doing so by gathering small groups of kids (to allow for social distance rules to be kept) multiple times a week. The results were inspiring as the kids learning improved and their parents were grateful and happy for the support they received.

Finally, other activities included supplying Christmas gifts and school supplies for the new school year starting in January. Given all this positive news and the fact that COVID seems to be gradually receding from Cartagena, we are planning to fully resume our on-premises activities in the month of March, this means bringing back the breakfast club every day before school which is so key for our kids’ physical development. In addition, we are also extending the program to include 30 additional kids (for a total of 100!). We would love to have your continued support during this reopening and expansion phase to continue transforming the lives of 100 children in Cartagena.

Emergency relief.
Emergency relief.
School supplies.
School supplies.
School reinforcements.
School reinforcements.
Food distribution.
Food distribution.
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As we shared in the previous report, our city has been impacted by the global pandemic, with those in conditions of need and poverty suffering the most. The government shutdown all schools and a general lockdown was in force. This meant that it was not safe for us to gather our kids as we had wished and provided them with the food and support, they needed. However, this did not stop us from being nimble and resourceful to find new ways to help and serve them. Below are some examples of how we overcame the difficult environment and supported our children.

Adapting to virtual learning

Rather than meeting together for the usual English and reading lessons, we opted for recording videos of those lessons and deliver them to the parents via mobile phones. Here is an example of such an online class https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=679424683012003. We leverage a similar model for reading and arts activities, for which we also equipped the kids with the necessary books, colors, and the like as you can see in the pictures below.

Artistic activities

Once the kids received their artistic kits, they spare no time to put their hands on the paintbrushes and make some beautiful art as shown below.

School reinforcements

Recently, the restrictions on indoor gatherings have eased to the point that we are now able to gather small groups of kids to provide them school reinforcements, especially in the areas of reading and math. You can see the kids enjoying themselves whilst learning these important subjects in the following picture.

Parent-child bonding challenge

Strengthening the affective bond between a child and their parent is a very effective tool to build the kids self-esteem and help them integrate better at their schools and community, this is the reason we launch a challenge that required the parents to give them at least 4 hugs a day, varies praises for their qualities, and a time of active listening. We received very positive feedback about this activity, and it is amazing to see how such little actions make a difference in their homes.

We are planning to reopen our facilities in full and resume the breakfast club in January, by when the health crisis will be over in our city. In the meantime, we will continue to be nimble and resourceful to continue supporting our kids despite the current difficulties. Once again, we rely on your continued support and contributions to serve our kids, we remain committed through obstacles and challenging circumstances with the unwavering hope that your support alongside our actions will continue bringing a meaningful and positive transformation to the lives of our children. 

Learning Resources
Learning Resources
Artistic activities
Artistic activities
School reinforcements
School reinforcements
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Distributing Food Stamps
Distributing Food Stamps

COVID19 has brought enormous challenges to communities around the globe and ours have not been the exception. In Cartagena, where we operate, the cases of COVID19 have been on the rise for the past week at a pace that seems out of control. Although this situation does impact the way we work and serve the kids, it by no means stops us from getting creative and raise to the challenge for the benefit of our children. Below is a recount of some extraordinary steps that the team in the fields took to continue transforming the lives of our kids amid COVID19.

Food stamps: First, let me start by describing the environment in which we operated in the last three months. 1) We could not continue gathering the kids in our facilities for food and activities as there was a government order in place that prohibited public gatherings of any size. 2)  Buying food in large quantities for later distribution became infeasible due to the unavailability of certain food products. 3) We knew that giving cash directly to the families wouldn’t be prudent as it is well known that some adults in those families may misuse the resources for alcohol abuse at the expense of the kids’ food. The challenge was dire, but we rise to the occasion. With a bit of creativity, we found a simple solution that worked very well: food stamps! Those can be bought in the grocery stores and be given to the families for them to exchange them for food (about 10 days’ worth of food supplies per stamp). Moreover, we were able to set the food stamps in a way that restricted them to be used for food only, and therefore mitigated the risk of misuse.

Continued learning: Food is one part of the problem; the other challenge was on how to keep the communication with the kids and their families. For this, we also have to use our ingenuity, given that most moms don’t have access to communication platforms due to limited internet access, we loaded their phones with internet packages for us to be able to reach them and continue given them support. We even managed to send online resources for the kids to continue their English learning process!

 
Before COVID19: Below are some of the activities that we carried out before the COVID pandemic hit our city.

Child abuse prevention training: We trained the moms to identify and prevent a situation that may put their kids at risk of sexual abuse.

Artistic activities: We facilitated spaces and resources for the kids to develop their artistic skills.

Learning English: We worked hard at motivating and equipping the kids to learn English as a second language. We believe that this is a powerful tool that can open doors for them in the long term.

Reading class: Promoting good reading habits leveraging our volunteers and newly donated learning resources.

COVID19 prevention training: Before COVID19 hit our city, we spent time with the moms educating them on preventive measures such as the correct way to washing the hands.

With a bit of creativity and a lot of love, we managed to serve our kids during exceptionally challenging times. We would not be able to do all of this without you, and we are immensely grateful for your partnership.  Now, even more than ever before, your contributions are making a substantial difference in our kids and their families. Please keep supporting us during this health crisis which affected the poor and the needy the most.

Child Abuse Prevention Training
Child Abuse Prevention Training
Artistic Activities
Artistic Activities
English Learning
English Learning
Creative Reading
Creative Reading
COVID19 Prevention Training
COVID19 Prevention Training
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Performing
Performing

A new year has come and we are back serving the kids after a short Christmas break. We spent the last part of the year reflecting on all we have learned and how we will apply this to our vision for 2020. In February, we reached a very important milestone: our first anniversary. Your support has been an important factor that has enabled us to reach this point. In addition, to continue giving daily breakfast to 70 kids (20 more than last year), we also conducted the following activities since our last report:

School supplies: In Colombia, the school year starts in January, and this is a time with many parents struggle to provide school supplies for their kids. We are aware of this problem and wanted to help by providing 67 of our children with full sets of supplies which included notebooks, pens, pencils, and bags.

Music workshop: the children embarked on training for a musical for a very special occasion. This activity was helpful to develop the kid's artistic talent and to overcome shyness. It took discipline and effort, but it was very well worth it.

Fundraising concert: We invited an international artist to perform to an audience of about 700 people to help us raise funds for the new year. The kids had a chance to showcase their talent as well with a very moving performance (see the first picture of the report).

Nutritional screening: We brought in a nutritionist to perform nutritional screening to 65 children. As we did one year ago, the goal was to reassess how the kids are progressing in terms of nutrition and which ones are still at risk. The results were very encouraging showing that 60% of the kids under 5 years present a proper weight and height whereas for those above 5 years the proportion is around 50%. For the rest of the kids that don't have an ideal weight and height, we will be increasing our work with them to help them fight the malnutrition.  Among the actions we have identified are:

  • Increase their breakfast portion.
  • Provide them with special food supplies that they can take to the school or house.
  • Help the family with goods to improve the quality of food at home.
  • Provide vitamin supplements to assist nutritional recovery.

Medical assessment: In addition to the nutritional screening, we also conducted medical assessments to identify potential illnesses that are common in children and to follow up with the medical authorities to make sure they receive proper treatment.

Finally, we conducted surveys to understand how the children and the parents feel about our work for them, the results were remarkable with the vast majority of the kids and parent indicating that they feel happy and helped. This is a great encouragement for us and we would love to continue having your support to make even more progress in transforming the lives of those children. 

School Supplies
School Supplies
Nutritional screening
Nutritional screening
Medical assessment
Medical assessment
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Organization Information

Fundacion Betania Juvenil

Location: Cartagena, Bolivar - Colombia
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @fundacionbetan1
Project Leader:
Jaime Baldiris
Cartagena, Bolivar Colombia
$51,899 raised of $60,500 goal
 
151 donations
$8,601 to go
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