Warm greetings from the village of Montevideo! Last year has been really a difficult one for everybody, as the financial crisis and global recess touched all of us, having their worst impact on the most vulnerable families and their children. This meant that we’ve had to use all our imagination not to increase our costs, while at the same time making all efforts to face up to the ever greater challenges, setting priorities for our expenditures.
The village, where 82 children and adolescents live in 13 families, is situated some 20 km from the centre of Montevideo and together with the Family Strengthening Program functioning in the area, it faces the challenge of having to respond to the demands of a community struggling to improve its standard of life. We have worked taking an integrated approach; the village’s families interacting with the community, so the children are growing up, feeling part of it and at the same time making the most of the already existing resources. They participated in the recreative, cultural and sporting activities of the community, were part of local football teams, went to catechism, attended a training course for mountaineering, dancing and painting classes and handicrafts workshops. The village’s activities were open to the community and so the nearby schools, the football club and local scout group participated in the choral encounters, football championships, etc. Also “Child Protection” has been a topic constantly present in our daily work, figuring out the risk factors existing in the families, so as to help them resolve their conflicts adequately in an environment of protection and respect.
The children in elementary school have done very well. However high school continues to be a problem if you consider it statistically, although if you get down to cases and see each situation individually, it’s easy to see why each of the youngsters that failed or dropped out, did so. Mainly the causes are learning problems, aggravated by the low teaching level and individual emotional problems. The teenagers living in the Youth Facilities are working and some study as well, attending evening school.
This year was crucial in respect to the work done with the children’s birth families and we’ve achieved several successful restitutions of children to their biological families and are currently working on new cases, which may result in still more children being able to return to their original environment. But unfortunately always new children need to be taken in, as was the case of Juan, Nico and Fede, three little brothers, who had been living a State Home for a year. They come from a critical context; their mother does drugs and although the father often promised to take them, he was never able to. When they first arrived, 6-year-old Juan never accepted a “no” for an answer and often threw tantrums; now he’s a friendly and solidary child. Nico is 4 and very loving and has a great need for affection and Fede, barely 2, is adapting well to his new life. The three experienced a most positive change thanks to the love and protection they received here, their SOS-mother tells us.
And in our Family Strengthening Programs we do preventive work, preventing child abandonment, by reaching children and their families in those peripheral communities that are most fragile and where children live most exposed to vulnerability. There we have implemented 4 Community Centres, attending 191 children and their families, providing meals, education and health care for the children, furthering women, helping them to get a job and establishing Neighbourhood Commissions to take over the responsibility for the programs. Diana and Enrique and their four children, one of these families, built their house with their own hands and enormous effort. Formerly they lived in a precarious dwelling made of brushwood and logs; but this house is made of real concrete blocks. “We feel more secure here and the living is better”, Diana explains. The children attend the Community Centre and since they do, “I know they’re well looked after and they’re learning a lot” Diana says. She helps cooking the meals and transmits to her children that you can achieve whatever you set out to do.
We thank you for the tremendous loyalty that you have shown us, this magnificent sign of trust, of continuing standing by us even in hard times like these. In the name of the children and our whole team we wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!