The year 2005, in terms of
the number of extremely poor, abandoned or abused children we helped,
and the quality of the help we provided them: was by far our best year
yet. We opened thirteen new children's centres - four had to be combined
into two - so our net gain is eleven, and they are thriving.
In the five years this particular project has been developing we have
learned a great deal, much of it through trial and error. We have learned,
for instance, if we are prepared to go to where the children live - rather
than bussing them into the safe city centres - we can reach many more,
and more innocent children: those living in a state of semi abandonment
in the poorest barrios.
Theirs are the most dangerous
communities of all, but we have learned that if our volunteers and staff
go early in the mornings; teach and work with the children, then hurry
back to the safety of the city centre before the villains wake up and
start their day's terror: it is secure for our volunteers and staff (also,
the communities we are helping tend to look after us).
We have also learned that if we work with our poor and abandoned children
inside existing school buildings; there is less resistance from parents,
it is safer for us and we get much less bother from politicized groups
or officials looking for money. Also, we can, with the school's cooperation,
transfer our children into their regular classes at any time during the
school year: not having to wait until the next annual intake.
Through operating our mission and projects as we are now, the results
we are achieving far exceed what we ever expected to be able to accomplish.
For students who missed their chance to go to school when they were the
age to enter first grade (and we take in children in this category from
8 to 18 years of age); after preparing them for one year we have a 60%
success rate of getting them into regular school at or near the grade
appropriate to their age. [Of the 27 children in our pilot project whom
we placed into state school classes appropriate to their ages: when the
school year ended all but two advanced to the next grade along with their
classmates - all of whom, unlike our children, had been attending school
all these years.
The children we work with who are young enough to get into the first or
second grade, we have a 100% success rate of getting them into school;
and 93% of them will complete their first year.
One strong reason for this success is the dynamic working relationship
which develops between our international volunteers, who offer the children
unqualified love and encouragement, and our national teachers and professionals
who channel the children's' response into educational progress. It is
not unusual for our classes of first graders to be among the best in their
respective schools, even though they come from the most deprived backgrounds.
I started this work, but better hands than mine are carrying it forward
to levels of achievement beyond my lights. I sometimes feel like a passenger
on a bus that is going to a new and better place: and I am grateful to
be invited along for the ride.
Bruce Thornton (& Ana Teresa Rosell)