Photo by Elissa Gershon
|More about EDELAC
Residential Care for the Homeless:
In February 1996, EDELAC opened the Hogar de Esperanza
("Home of Hope"), a therapeutic residential
care home for Quetzaltenango's abused and neglected
street children (see photo, left). In its 10 months of
operation, the Hogar completely rehabilitated seven
street children from abuse of glue and other drugs and
helped them leave a life of prostitution and
exploitation. These children now live in homes, some with
their natural families, others with foster families and
all attend school. EDELAC continues to monitor, counsel
and educate these children, providing the financial and
psychological support needed to ensure their successful
transition and progress.
|Putting the Emphasis on Prevention:
But one child, Valerio, (pictured right) has consistently refused to be helped. He taught us the profound lesson that rehabilitation can be far more difficult than prevention. In order to prevent homelessness, we had to assess its' causes. Since no other research has been done on juvenile homelessness in Guatemala, we conducted extensive family and social history investigations. We carefully studied the immediate and near-term causes of juvenile homelessness in Quetzaltenango. Based on this research, we created an extensive plan to use social work, economic development and education to change the conditions which lead children to a life on the street, mainly poverty, abuse and neglect at home. We decided to close the Hogar de Esperanza and concentrate our resources on preventative social work. To this end, we created the Las Rosas Centro Formativo Comunitario (Youth Development Center) which opened in December 1996. We also expanded home-based care for street children, either with their own families, whenever safe, or with foster parents. To date, we have brought 9 children off the street and into permanent homes (a 93% success rate!) Needless to say, though, we never give up on any child, including Valerio. The EDELAC staff are continually seeking ways to provide the right kind of support, care or placement so that every single street child can find a place to live in safety, nurturance and happiness.
The research we conducted was recently presented at the annual conference of the American Public Health Association by Noushin Bayat, a public health worker who helped conduct the study.
Micro businesses are an important part of the EDELAC approach. Of course, we seek to be as self-supporting as the people we are trying to assist. We have created a number of small businesses which provide income that supports EDELAC programs. Businesses we have set up include a restaurant and a baking company. An independently-run micro business, Quetzaltrekkers , raises money for EDELAC programs by leading tourists on ecologically and culturally sensitive backpacking and hiking trips through the Guatemalan mountains.
But micro businesses are important also because they provide jobs and income for the impoverished families we work with. The best example of this is the Traditional Mayan Clothing for Barbie Dolls project, a project in which mothers of the children at the Las Rosas Center are learning a trade and earning an income making Guatemalan traje (clothing) for Barbie Dolls. You can even buy some!
Moreover, we can create small businesses which provide training in a supportive and respectful atmosphere for the young people in our programs. We have found few things which motivate the children we work with to feel good about themselves and to work hard in school than job training.
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