Focus Population: 300+ child laborers and shoe-shine boys, ages 2-16
Location: Ferias (day markets) and streets
Schedule: January to December, 8:30 AM-12:00 PM and 1:30 PM-5:00PM
The ferias of Quito, Ecuador are open-air markets that operate several days a week. Many children of street vendors work long hours here with little opportunity for recreation or education. The time and space limitations presented by the nature of these markets make ferias an undesirable location for social programs. It is precisely here, with these under-served children, that UBECI places its focus.
The United Nations defines street children as: “any girl or boy for whom the street in the widest sense of the word (including unoccupied dwellings, wasteland, etc.) has become his or her habitual abode and/or source of livelihood, and who is inadequately protected, supervised, or directed by responsible adults”
Children that participate in this program are as young as two years of age and accompany their parents to work. Their day begins at 4:00 am with 10-12 hours of work. The daily reality of child laborers is a difficult one. The environment that many of these children grow up in does not nurture their development. They are exposed to aggression, poverty, lack of education, machismo, discrimination, and other difficulties that impede healthy growth and development. Because many of the children grow up in such harsh environments where education is not valued, they often lack healthy self-esteem and self-worth.
If you would like to learn more about Street Children, in a global sense, click here.
We conduct programs where under-served children work and reside, such as markets and streets located in the south of Quito and around the city. There, we meet the children and their families and work closely with them to gain their trust, and eventually their permission to spend time with their children. Throughout our interactions, we communicate to these parents our desire to bring their children support and offer to become a part of their children’s development. We also explain to them the positive impact education can have on their children.
Once a parent agrees to allow their child to participate in our activities, we take the child into our program. Programs are conducted in the children’s natural environment close to their parents. Our activities are based on research and are developed in order to address topics that will allow the children to grow and learn.
The UBECI staff in Ecuador consists of the founder, the program director, educators, and volunteers. The program director evaluates the progress of each child and designs programs tailored to assist these children and their families. The educators reach out to under-served children and their families and introduce them to our program and our activities that are developed by staff and volunteers. Our aim is for every child to be enrolled in school within 10 months of starting the program at UBECI. If the child is already enrolled, we encourage them to stay in school and ensure their progress and success.