Could you imagine you and your family living on less than $1.25 per family member per day? Could you also imagine how this economic situation could affect a young child’s access to education?
The majority of children living in the districts that surround the Peruvian city of Trujillo face this reality every single day. However, the non-profit organization, Supporting Kids in Peru (SKIP), is making an impact on these impoverished communities: through its tireless efforts, SKIP is providing education and social and economic stability programs to both children and their families—and seeing the results.
A Givology partner, SKIP has benefitted from the generosity of Givology’s donors through their funding of SKIP students and projects. In this interview, Liz Wilson, the director of SKIP, discusses how her organization is changing lives and how it urgently needs funding for a school construction project to benefit its students.
(Liz Wilson with SKIP student)
Interview by Genna Weiss
Please tell us about Supporting Kids in Peru (SKIP) and how it was founded.
SKIP was founded in 2003 by two British people who wanted to set up a sustainable development project in Peru. We began supporting 80 children to go to school, covering the cost of their uniforms and school materials, and helping them with homework. We work in El Porvenir and Alto Trujillo, which are located on the outskirts of the city of Trujillo on the North Coast of Peru.
Initially, in order to spread support, we supported only one child per family. However, when it became apparent that some families were being placed in a position where they had to choose which of their children would receive an education, we changed this [policy] in 2006 so that all children in SKIP families received the same scholarship. This ideal also fits more closely with our ethos of holistic support.
What are the typical obstacles that impoverished children face in Peru? How does SKIP look to better the opportunities for those students who participate in this program?
74 percent of the SKIP families are living in absolute poverty (incomes of less than $1.25 per family member per day). The impact of this level of poverty is wide-reaching—from a poor diet, lack of home security, minimal access to health care services, no money to pay for medicine, no running water, electricity and/or sanitation at home, and on and on.
In addition, the education system here is chronically lacking; it has been criticized for sacrificing quality for coverage, and this certainly fits with our experiences. The children come to the office with homework that is completely age inappropriate, boring or repetitive (for example, write all the numbers from 200-500).
Class sizes are huge: in one of the schools we work with, there are classes of up to 60 children. Teacher training is poor, so they are not equipped to deal with this many children in a class (really, who is), and they have few teaching resources to use, so the methodology relies overly on copying information from the blackboard. The children are obsessed by making sure that their titles are underlined in the correct color, yet no one seems to have noticed that they can't read the words on the page!
We provide an afterschool teaching program for all children. At primary age they attend three times per week. On two days they have Math, English and Literacy (reading comprehension). On the third day they play sports and do arts; we have included these more “creative” subjects this year following our observations in the holiday club program that they were gaining so much from these opportunities to be creative, express themselves freely and learn about team work.
Each day there is also the opportunity to read and do homework. We have a small library, which is also open every day, and the children are able to come and read, do homework and play educational games. We place a huge focus on reading because the children do not have access to reading materials at home. Reading plays a critical role in children's ability to progress in their school careers. One of the most important factors in how quickly a child will learn to read is the opportunity they have to read out loud and interact with reading material.
For children in secondary school, they attend electives in English, Math or Communications twice per week and then also have a youth group which runs on a Saturday afternoon. We also run a nursery for 10 children aged between 3-4 years.
How did SKIP determine to bring more of a family focus to the program rather than just directly supporting children’s education?
These children are disadvantaged because their parents were disadvantaged. In order to break the cycle of poverty, we recognize that the most important influence in these children's lives is and must be their families. After all, children spend far more time with their parents than with us. Research into projects in developing countries has clearly demonstrated that in order to have maximum impact and be sustainable, interventions must involve parents as well as children.
As such, we also work with parents running workshops on a range of issues from how to set up a child behavior management system in your home, to how to cope with your troubled teenager, to breast cancer awareness.
For families experiencing more significant difficulties, we offer brief, solution-focused therapeutic interventions with the psychology team. We also have an economic development team who then works with parents to look for employment and gives out microfinance loans for business and home improvements. Through this department we also run craft workshops and are selling their products on our website in order to generate a fair income for the parents and to raise funds for the project.
We also help with more practical issues. For example, our social work team supports families in registering for the free governmental health care program, “SIS.” The process is rather complicated and requires two home visits from a qualified social worker. The problem is that there are not enough State social workers to complete these assessments in time. As a result, our families are over four and a half times more likely to be registered for SIS as compared to other families living in El Porvenir and Alto Trujillo.
Can you give us an example of a family that has been impacted by SKIP’s services?
This story is from the annual report- names have been changed:
Social Work Case Story
Mrs. Fernandez, age 49 years, was born in a village about two hours from Trujillo. She has been a part of the SKIP program for three years and has six children.
During one of the social work workshops, mothers learned how they could check themselves for breast cancer. During the session, Mrs. Fernandez was concerned to discover that she could distinguish what she thought was a lump in one of her breasts. Consequently, she discussed her concerns with the doctor who was facilitating the session.
Following this examination, concerned about the lump, the doctor assisted SKIP in making a referral to the cancer specialist in Trujillo. All of these appointments were provided free of charge, using SKIP contacts with medical organizations. Fortunately, Mrs. Fernandez had SIS in place and was subsequently able to receive free treatment.
Understandably, Mrs. Fernandez was anxious at the time of diagnosis, especially in regard to concerns for her youngest children. The SKIP social work team was able to provide intensive support during this difficult period, attending appointments with her to make sure that information was presented in a way that she could understand, offering a shoulder to cry on and a source of support and encouragement.
The most recent medical tests have indicated that chemotherapy has been successful and Mrs. Fernandez is in recovery.
SKIP is currently raising money for school construction. Can you tell us more about this project and how it will benefit SKIP’s students?
We thought we had funding secured for the whole construction project but due to unforeseen circumstances, we were left with the project unfinished. The rooms were originally planned to be office space for our rapidly growing volunteer team. However, child attendance has increased so dramatically—from 40 percent at the start of 2010 to 82 percent at the current time, May 2011—that we have had to designate these rooms as classrooms for the children.
It has been okay to continue without windows and doors throughout the summer, but with winter rapidly on its way, the rooms are getting really cold, and it is difficult for the children to concentrate.
How can people get involved with donating to this project?
Either through Givology, coming and volunteering in Peru—or buying products from our SKIP Shop.
What have been the overall results of the SKIP program thus far? Are there any plans to build upon the current program over the next few years?
Participation in the primary education program gradually increased throughout 2010, from 40 percent of children attending all three obligatory sessions per week to 69 percent by the end of the year. [In the current time], May 2011, attendance has now risen to 82 percent.
80 percent of children in primary grades 2-6 improved their reading grade, and 60 percent improved by two or more reading levels.
Families in the program are four and a half times as likely to be registered for free government health care as other families living in El Porvenir and Alto Trujillo.
Repayments on economic development loans increased from a rate of 81 percent in 2007 to 98.14 percent in 2010.
The next project we hope to take on is for the development of a health program to complete the holistic support that we are offering. We are exploring several options at the moment and hope to have something sustainable set up by the end of the year.
To support SKIP's school construction project: Create Enclosure
To see current photos of the project: Photos of the School
For more information about this organization: SKIP
Genna Weiss's Blog
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