Monday, April 14, 2008

By Nicole Duciaume, Documentation and Sponsorship Support Officer

Throughout the day on Monday, ChildFund member participants engaged with the National Office staff on various topics ranging from poverty indicators, program implementation, funding and sponsorship methodologies. Discussions focused on the “faces of poverty” which is one way to capture the idea of what it means for children in Ecuador to be deprived, excluded and vulnerable.

After a very full day of orientations, participants awoke Tuesday to the realization that the real trip, the real meetings, the real understanding was about to begin. Around breakfast that morning, there was a very real buzz in the air as participants hurried themselves to finish the last sip of juice before checking out of the hotel and heading to the Cotopaxi Area. We anxiously boarded the bus early and watched out the windows in amazement as the hills rose in a crescendo like a symphony. We were split into two groups so that the visits were more manageable and less overwhelming for the children, families, schools and communities. Each bus carried lively conversations, some attempted to catch a bit of last minute sleep and others listed out the questions they couldn’t wait to ask.

The first order of business was learning about how the area staff works in collaboration with the communities, parents, youth and children to identify the leading issues affecting children’s wellbeing in the community. This process is known as the Participatory Rural Assessment. CCF puts a premium on asking the children and youth their perspectives and their views. We want the children and youth to identify their realities, risks and solutions.

Another component of this process is asking children to identify the risks in their community. These risks are then mapped out for all the children to be aware of and for CCF to consider how best to program in these areas. For example, children will put flags in areas where there are bus lines, mean dogs, bars or poorly lit areas. The community can then address these concerns, such as more public lighting in this area or no playgrounds in that area. This risk map is publicly displayed so that it serves as both a resource and an awareness building technique.

The staff shared with us the importance of working in partnerships. Specifically CCF partners with the community members, the local government, local organizations, grant partners and other larger non-government organizations. By working in partnership, there is less competition for available resources, more collaboration on efforts to ensure coverage and less duplication of efforts. For example, we met with a representative from a grant-funded consortium to fight child labor in Cotopaxi. We also learned of how CCF programs have been adopted by the Ecuadorian government as standards for all of the country such their nutritional guide for children.

It was powerful to see how donations are amplified. By engaging partners in the assessment as well as the program design and implementation, CCF is being faithful stewards of all the money donated to help the children in these communities.

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