UBECI serves approximately 600 children, many who live on the streets of Quito, with an educational break during the day, at six different markets. Due to a lack of adequate wages, market children as young as 3 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 so enough money can be earned to survive. Each day our 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 these children with educational, social and recreational services.
Typical Day in the market with UBECI
Children between the ages of 3 and 17 engage in these 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. Play is essential to developing social and emotional ties, and organized games teach important life lessons that is often missing from work in the market. All activities employ fun as a way to build interest, maintain focus and success, and allow working children to be children.
Goals of the Play Do and Learn Program
- Volunteers and staff walk around the market to pick up children from their parents market stalls and walk them to the UBECI tents for the days activities.
- Washing hands with soap and water, to teach and encourage the importance of basic hygiene.
- Time to play! With fun, educational toys such as legos, puppets, etc. or other children and volunteers- to encourage their creativity, imagination and developing physical, cognitive, and emotional strengths.
- Homework help for older children already in school, or drawing and reading
- Children are divided into age groups for appropriate learning activities (including basic math skills, hygiene, health, language, self-respect and self-awareness). Emphasis is on fun, and maintaining interest and focus on learning.
- Organized games! (such as tag, soccer, or three legged races)
- Singing and dancing songs, to encourage movement and fun.
- At the end of the day, children walk back to their parents market stalls, or are accompanied by staff and volunteers.
- Provide street and at-risk children with a break from working in the market 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 education.
- Foster a positive self-concept in at-risk/street children who have experienced various forms of discrimination (gender and class), and lack of basic necessities, (food, shelter, health care, clothing, education and a time and place to be a child).
- Provide an opportunity for parents (many who have not had the opportunity to go to school), to understand the value of education.
- Provide support so that children are able to enroll and stay in school, eventually leading to better options to earn livable wages.
- Offer girls, who have less options than boys in Ecuador, a more level playing field in terms of self-concept, educational opportunities and the ability to be self-sufficient.
- Approximately ⅔ of all the school age children in the Play Do and Learn program enroll and stay in school during the year, (largely due to the services UBECI provided before school age and their ongoing support once children are enrolled in school).
- Over 600 children in 6 different markets receive structured activities, health and social services.
- The UBECI program has survived for 20 years, due to the strength of the program and support from around the world
- Employed three energetic and dedicated service providers who work long hours in the markets of Quito, regardless of conditions, and always place the needs of the children first.
- Developed a strong relationship with Volunteer Connection Ecuador (VCE), who sends UBECI over 250 international volunteers a year (each volunteering two to twelve weeks), providing 15,000 hours/year of service
- Developed a partnership with The Universidad of San Francisco de Quito, the top ranked university in Ecuador, providing student interns and material for student supply kits each year.