An End is not Always an End
22nd June 2016
An End is not Always an End!
By Luisa Cristina Alvarez
Associate Consultant in Venezuela
Sometimes beautiful projects begin in an unexpected way, but then turn out to be inspirational and a source of reflection in many ways. This is the case of the English Program for Teenagers at Aldeas Infantiles SOS, El Mácaro, Aragua State, Venezuela. But, let us first define what Aldeas infantiles SOS is. This institution was founded by Herman Gmeiner as SOS - Kinderdorf International in 1949, within the context of a devastated Austria after the Second World War. It is the biggest one around the world dedicated to the direct protection of childhood and is considered as a reference regarding the attention of children, within the family as its nucleus.
In Venezuela, the first Aldea Infantil was opened in October 1979, and ever since then its continuous work favoring children and teenagers from disadvantaged families keeps growing. It has worked for 35 years and currently, almost 3.000 underprivileged children are protected by its different programs. In Aragua State, the Aldea Infantil SOS El Mácaro provides accommodation for 59 children and teenagers from ages ranging from 6 to 17, who live with substitute mothers in 12 houses.
It is important to mention that children and teenagers who live in the Aldeas have been sent there under court measures because their biological families for different reasons have lost their custodies.
And what about this English Program for Teenagers at Aldeas Infantiles SOS? As mentioned at the beginning, this project came to life when Prof. Waleska Ruiz, a colleague and friend who wanted to become a mother began searching on the web for possible ways to adopt a child. Neither she nor I knew about the existence of this organization in our state, and we were immediately touched by the possibility of giving something to these kids. From our previous experiences with programs sponsored by the U. S. Embassy in Venezuela, and their interest in developing projects for underprivileged sectors of the society; we decided to write a proposal for an English program for teenagers at the Aldea near our city.
Within the Aldea, a professional staff looks for reconstructing family connections, educating in civic values and empowering these young people for their independence once they are 18 years old. From this perspective, my colleague and I thought that learning English as a foreign language could be one extra-curricular activity to contribute with the personal growing of these teenagers by providing them with better opportunities in the future. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “the children of economically disadvantaged parents lack access to resources and opportunities in ways that undermine their long-term social mobility.” (Fischer & Hout, 2006). These teenagers not only come from low economic status, but as mentioned before, they also lack of their original family members.
When organizing the proposal, it was necessary to consider the new policy of Aldeas Infantiles SOS which implied inserting into their programs other teenagers from the surrounding communities with the intention of helping their disadvantaged teenagers to get integrated with the rest of the society. As a result of this, the group of participants was a mixture of teenagers from within and outside the Aldea, all of them from low socio-economic backgrounds.
In a very succinct way, the following are the elements of the two-year program that began in October 2014, and will finish by the end of July 2016:
Program Objective: To provide 20 economically disadvantaged 12-17 year-old learners whose home is the Aldea SOS in El Macaro, and other surrounding areas in Aragua State, Venezuela, the opportunity to receive English instruction to develop basic language communicative functions, gain knowledge about U.S. culture while reinforcing their Venezuelan one, cultivate civic and moral values, and therefore, be better prepared through different life skills for their future.
Regular sessions & U.S Holydays activities: Saturdays 8:30 – 12:30
Special sessions: Dates vary, but they are basically occasions when the group is taken to special events, such as English Immersion days or weekends, and other cultural activities in English.
Supporting materials a) Textbooks & workbooks “ My World 1 & 2, b) hand-made materials, c) U.S. Embassy provided resources, and d) internet resources
Venue: Centro Social Aldeas Infantiles SOS- Turmero.
Curricula and pre-test & post- tests designed by coordinators
Facilitated by various teachers & monitored by coordinators
Regular meetings with parents & substitute mothers
Regular meetings with Aldea Infantiles SOS Teenagers’ Coordinator – Lic. Holbert Gonzalez.
Regular meetings with teachers, both online and face to face.
Financial and academic reports to the U. S. Embassy officials on a three-month basis.
We have certainly faced a few challenges to run this program, but there have been quite a lot of achievements and far more expectations towards the future of this rewarding connection among the organization of Aldeas Infantiles SOS, the U. S. Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela; and independent teachers and teacher trainers of which I function as the general coordinator. The current program is about to finish by the month of July with an English Immersion weekend at a recreational and natural environment; but we are sure that the touching, motivating and mutual learning experience will not finish then. The three parts involved in this project have expressed their interest in continuing with other cohorts and new projects as well.
And last but not least, my colleague Waleska and I know that we will make all the effort to continue offering the teenagers in the current program opportunities to go on with the process of mastering the target language, and we also plan to be in touch with them to “witness a bright future in their lives”. Love is a relationship that nurtures the best of all human beings, so that is why I say that An End is not Always an End!