Currently Ubeci serves approximately 600 children, many who live on the streets of Quito, with an educational break during the day, at six different markets. Each day staff and volunteers get on a bus and go to a market, carrying canopies, mats, toys, school supplies and sports equipment; and set up an area to provide educational, social and recreational services. The market children are often required to spend up to 12 hours a day in a stall at the market helping bag produce and keeping the stall clean. Due to a lack of ability to earn adequate wages in the market to pay for basic needs, children often work so enough money can be earned to survive.
Children first wash their hands with soap and water, both from necessity and to learn basic hygiene. Children between the ages of 3 and 17 engage in various activities each day, sometimes with younger siblings in attendance, because a 5 year old will be responsible for caring for a one or two year old sibling. Volunteers and staff assume responsibility for the young sibling while the older child participates in the program. Children are provided with educational toys, such as legos, puppets, etc., and are encouraged to play with others. Play allows children to develop creativity and imagination while developing physical, cognitive, and emotional strengths. Play is essential to developing social and emotional ties, and allow children who have been working to once again be a child. Older children will receive help with homework if attending school or have the opportunity to draw or read.
Next. children are divided into three age groups in order to engage in appropriate learning activities. Younger children can engage in coloring a worksheet that may describe various objects, feelings, or activities which is then incorporated into a lesson which helps the young children gain a better understanding of basic elements of math, hygiene, health, language, self-respect and self-awareness. Worksheets and activities are more challenging for the older groups of children. All activities employ fun as a way to build interest, maintain interest and focus and increase success.
After sitting, they are often in need of movement at this point, which is offered in the form of organized, cooperative, and fun games and activities. Children may engage in a three legged race, play different versions of tag, or a game of soccer. Organized games teach important life lessons from play that is often missing from work in the market. Children engage in a song that involves movement and another lesson often in relation to self-awareness and positive self-concept. Children are then allowed to choose an activity or receive additional help with school work.
Many children are able to walk from their parents stall to the program on their own. However, others are picked by staff at their parents stall at the beginning of the program and then are returned to the stall after the program ends, a short but important form of transportation, to help all the children in the market participate.
Goals of the Play Do and Learn Program
- Provide street children and at-risk children with a needed break from working in the stall and/or having to provide care for a younger sibling.
- Provide educational services to children who are either not in school or have limited school, to augment their learning and promote the importance of learning.
- Foster a positive self-concept in at-risk/street children who have experienced many challenges including various forms of discrimination including gender and class; lack of basic necessities: food, shelter, health care, clothing and education and a time and place to be a child.
- Provide an opportunity for parents to see and understand the value of education, many who have not had the opportunity for school, in a manner that provides an step between full time school and working full time in the market.
- Provide support so that children are able to enroll in and stay in school, so they have more and better options for earning a livable wage.
- Offer girls, who often have less options than boys in Ecuador, a more level playing field in terms of self-concept, educational opportunities and the ability to be more self-sufficient.
- Approximately ⅔ of all the school age children in the Play Do and Learn program enroll in school and stay in school during the year due largely to the services provided before school age and ongoing support once enrolled in school.
- Services have been increased over the years so that over 600 children in 6 different markets receive program services.
- Due to the strength of the program and support from around the world, the program has survived for 20 years.
- Have employed three direct service providers whose energy and dedication to the program is evidenced by working long hours in the markets of Quito, regardless of conditions, and always placing the needs of the children first.
- Have developed and nurtured a relationship with IVHQ, which results in over 250 volunteers a year spending between two and twelve weeks a year, providing 15,000 hours of service per year at a value of a donation of $300,000 per year, keeping operating expenses to $60,000 per year.
- Have developed the local support and partnership with the best university in Ecuador, The Universidad of San Francisco who provides, student interns and materials for student supply kits each year.