This week I started my time in the Prevention department of Tres Manuelas, where I will be in the mornings for the month of March. I went to a board meeting Tres Manuelas held for the schools in a sector of Quito. (I took the “notes” for the meeting, although I think they had a little too much faith in my Spanish). At the meeting I saw how so many social problems of Quito affect the children of their schools. Many parents need help in knowing how to fulfill their responsibilities as parents. Social workers, psychologists, and other school staff were the board members and brought up issues such as the parents did not care if the children did their homework, or were unknowing of their child’s extended absences, and the severe cases of child abuse, and teenage pregnancies. Each school had begun different ways of prevention, such as workshops in sexuality, and informing their students of the rights of the child in Ecuador. It seemed that most schools hoped to target interventions with the parents and hoped for resources in this realm from Tres Manuelas. However, giving the parents the resources can be difficult, if they do not have time to participate because of work, or if they do not want the help, or think they need to change. I have been able to see a little of bit of the school’s situations in the afterschool program. One afternoon a teacher came in and asked to make sure one of her students actually completed his homework because he never did. Usually the afternoons are pretty crazy and loud, most children finish their homework, but it is their own choice up to a certain point how much they will accomplish. After one exceptionally hectic afternoon, the coordinator of the program and I were talking and she said she was ok with a little craziness. The children did not have to come to the program, and walked over to Tres Manuelas everyday. The program is suppose to be a safe place for the children to receive help and have a place to go afterschool, not another classroom. I really like her approach to the way the program is run, and almost all the children complete their homework in the afternoon. When comparing this to the board meeting I went to, I can see how the children’s program is helping further the success of the students, whether or not their parents have interest in their schooling.
I have also been able to learn a little more about the social problems relating to government funding and the education system. Most schools buildings are set up to have two different schools occur each day so that one starts early morning, and the other early afternoon. With this set-up, children do not receive a lunch, or have an afterschool care opportunity. There were programs that would provide meals for the students, but their funding was cut. It is now seen as the parent’s responsibility to provide a lunch for the child, but the reality of the situation is that not all of the parents can provide their kids with lunch, or they neglect their responsibility.
While I am with the Prevention Department of Tres Manuelas, I will be seeing many different aspects of how Tres Manuelas engages in the community of Quito. Although social workers are often thought of as working in a one-on-one setting, macro (community) involvement is an essential part of creating change for clients in one-on-one settings, and to better communities or vulnerable populations as whole.