13.1 SITUATION BEFORE THE INITIATIVE BEGAN
When the initiative began in the urban settlement in 2002, 300 families were living together totally unprotected by the State in terms of: unemployment, primitive housing, unhealthy running water, alleyways, environmental contamination, illiteracy, diseases, electricity, insecurity, protection of children, families and the elderly.
13.2 ESTABLISHMENT OF PRIORITIES
From 2002 priority was given to social assistance and feeding from the Community Canteen, involving all the community.
In 2003/2004 the priority was to train and set up work solutions for men and women, encouraging them to join in with productive enterprises.
From the start of the initiative, a priority selection process was made, in order to define what is the mission of the Mother-Child and Education Centre: the care of children under 4 and mothers; including adolescent women who are not mothers.
The women carry out the active participation tasks.
13.3 FORMULATION OF OBJECTIVES AND STRATEGIES
Since 2002 the objectives and strategies have been set by the community and the Civil Association depending on the unmet immediate needs.
- To relieve hunger in order to continue getting involved in other aspects of indigence.
- To consolidate the Association within the Community.
- To teach adolescent women the role of the mother and to value their Human Rights and Duties.
The initiative "action, prevention-cure" will be carried out by means of the developmental- educational-training-emotional process, in interaction with the Association-collaborators-beneficiaries-children-community-volunteers and professionals. Tasks of integration will be planned in which responsibilities are shared for interactive learning and with role rotation.
13.4 MOBILISATION OF RESOURCES
The financial resources reaching the Association have come erratically from private collaborators, NGOs, foundations and official bodies. They have been used to relieve UBNs and to start productive enterprises.
Women of the community have done the domestic tasks. Some mothers have made a minimal weekly contribution and fathers helped to maintain the buildings.
Organizing the first phase of the initiative (Community Canteen-Mother-Child and Education Centre) was the responsibility of those who have been members of successive Management Committees. Paid and volunteer professionals and teachers have attended the children and instructed the mothers according to their profession.
In this new 2007project ("Action, prevention-cure…") the Management Committee will work with young volunteers, with volunteer and paid professionals together with the National University of Córdoba and with intern teachers together with Teacher Training Colleges.
The Civil Association has worked with 9 members to keep it running since 2002. It is expected from 2006 to continue working with 13 members to begin to gradually put into practice the 2007 initiative. The Management Committee has always been advised by volunteer and paid Public Accountants for managing the resources.
The most vulnerable people in the community lacked any kind of social aid. The problems faced at the start were: unemployment, primitive dwellings, environmental contamination, illiteracy, diseases, a lack of public services, insecurity, a lack of protection for children, families and the elderly. These were dealt with by looking for solutions based on the fieldwork carried out by the promoter of the initiative. The problems of primitive housing and of public services were solved by the State. The problems of child malnutrition and anaemia, of improved health care and of aid to children and mothers were alleviated by the Civil Association. The rest remain unresolved.
The 2007 practice is planned in order to tackle premature motherhood, with the young women receiving the formation they need through the guidance of health professionals.
Part of the target community approached the Association to work in the organization. Private collaborators and official and private bodies helped to be able to achieve the aims that were set. Some of them are being invited in order to carry out the 2nd stage of the initiative successfully.
The initial intention was that members of the community should take part in the decision-making within the Management Committee. Difficulties in personal relationships made this impossible. The decisions were taken by members of the Management Committee who, when the initiative began, all belonged to the beneficiary community.
To the extent that resources were obtained, help was given to the families with urgent needs. The Members have shown a growing interest in the mission of the Association.
From the start, the promoter of the initiative made personal interviews and home visits. She then carried out surveys among the adolescent mothers with a data analysis in order to begin a project for them that did not take place, and which is what is aimed to put into practice in 2007. There has been a constant dialogue of the Civil Association with the families to get feedback on the data necessary for setting urgent priorities.
There have been periodic meetings with the mothers, with the members of the Management Committee and some members to evaluate objectives.
The Community Canteen started in the porch of a house that was loaned in 2002 and today it is the Mother-Child and Education Centre.
13.6 RESULTS ACHIEVED
Hunger is a constant reality. Out of 35% of all the beneficiaries since 2002, 20% of children have overcome malnutrition and 19% did not fall into chronic malnutrition. 5% of women have overcome their anaemia. The remaining 10% were able to relieve their hunger through the intervention of the Association. These results were achieved through daily attendance lists and consultations with doctors and nutritionists.
The Association had relied on cash and human resources in an unstable way. It has managed to keep working in a coordinated and integrated way with its members, so that it was possible to continue meeting UBNs.
As it became known over time and through the growing registration of children, the community continued coming for help to the Association. There was recognition at local and national level through the mass media
The type of culture proper to such urban settlements was a limitation to the progress of the practice. The Association's opportunities were the consolidation of a staff of collaborators, the honesty of the initiative, the fact of trusting the children, the persistent search for solutions, and having its own base.
The new initiative wants to achieve its aims but is considered a complement to the current social policies. The work of the Mother-Child Centre has improved the capacity of provincial policies because it protects children from 0 to 4 years of age and young mothers without State provision.
The Civil Association has not had permanent state financial support. The resources were invariably obtained only through humanitarian collaboration. This was a continuous task to be able to refresh the resources necessary destined for aiding indigent families.
The Mother-Child and Educational Centre has worked to raise women's awareness that they have the same rights as men. A constant amount of resources has been maintained (with severe difficulties as a result of an insufficient response to requests during a short period in 2004), despite changes in Members, donors and volunteers.
The Association has carried out work in education, in human formation, containment and constant social assistance. This managed to be effective only based on dialogue and on the acceptance of the ways of living proper to the target community.
The Civil Association has had too short an existence so far to realize any kind of legal regulation within the community. This has been kept in mind, but not for the short-term. To make longer-term projections means consolidating itself in the place where it is working, showing its willingness to strengthen itself in the area where it has worked.
13. 8 LESSONS LEARNED
Education must be based on its cultural heritage . This is why we have learnt to work effectively adapting to the characteristics of this social group and accepting them as human beings with great sensitivity, needing the expression of affection, in order to raise their self-esteem and awareness. For this reason the interpersonal language must always be open.
Not imposing but being a guide. This is the rule of living together in order to carry out the initiatives.
Indigence is an obstacle to achieving participation in the task of educating. The aim for the 2007 project will be to awaken the interest of each adolescent in order to achieve both affective and effective participation, to overcome this difficulty. Based on mutual confidence (beneficiaries-Mother-Child and Educational Centre) the attempt will be made to educate them by a process of interaction. What is learnt must be seen as a way of life that is possible to pass on to others lacking it and that is sustainable in itself.
Power granted is taken as an attitude of ownership and becomes a source of interpersonal conflicts. Responsibilities will be given only to those who are capable of exercising power with respect towards other people.
All these lessons involve education which was and is a long-term, constant task for the Association.
The mission of the Las Perlitas de María Civil Association has been made known through the Internet, through other mass media and through its links with the State. No transfer of the good practice has yet been made.
However, it is considered of great importance that other initiatives should repeat the prevention and cure of the following realities: becoming aware of what it means to be a subject with rights, of the responsibility of being a mother and having children; of the damaging experiences undergone, of the need and importance of the affective link with their children and of the need for resolving problems for their own well-being and that of their family.
In terms of the professionals involved, our experience since the start of the practice shows that it is a priority to awaken an interest in them in the social purpose of their work and their educational role in society.
It is very important for NGOs to work in networks, to help each other in the mission and in looking for solutions to the obstacles that are encountered. It is a good idea to interact with NGOs that make diagnoses and assessments, and that are very useful for resolving such difficulties among those making up the network.
Related policies or legislation
In 2004 the National Youth Department of the Ministry of Social Development (www.juventud.gov.ar) through the National Young Community Leaders Program, granted a subsidy for making an Organic Kitchen Garden.
In 2003 the National Ministry of Social Development (Plan Social Manos a la Obra. - www.desarrrollosocial.gov.ar) granted a subsidy for purchasing an oven for the use of one of the productive enterprises. In the same year, the Ministry of Solidarity of the Province of Córdoba granted, for that year only, a subsidy through the Child and Family Protection Program (www.cba.gov.ar).
Given that it is indispensable to have our own place to make the initiatives work, the Córdoba City Hall (www.cordoba.gov.ar) has begun to grant land for building a hall for both initiatives. The Centro Experimental de la Vivienda - C.E.V.E.- (www.ceve.org.ar) will build the new Mother-Child and Education Centre.
In 2006 the promoter of the initiative was declared an illustrious citizen by Córdoba City Hall, for the work done by the Las Perlitas de María Civil Association.