Founded in 1993 in the province of Imbabura, the Cristo de la Calle Association is dedicated to improving the living conditions of at-risk families and children.
Ibarra, the province’s capital, is faced, like the rest of Ecuador, with wide social and judicial inequalities, domestic problems and crime that affects marginalized groups in the community. This difficult social environment often leads to the abandonment of children and adolescents, who are left to fend for themselves, leading to child labor and begging.
The association’s priority is the well-being and safety of the children in its care. The center’s activities focus on those most vulnerable to marginalization or even exclusion, and it offers a safe and stable setting where children can grow and shape their identities. Emphasis is especially placed on the need for establishing group actions, integrating the people, public and private institutions, and the government to better resolve social issues faced by families in the Imbabura region.
Members of the association work to help each child and adolescent live in a stable family structure and support families in their roles of education, protection, guidance and safety of the child. Cristo de la Calle emphasizes enfranchisement and holding each individual accountable via a long learning process that allows each family to make independent choices about their children’s education.
The Cristo de la Calle Association is a leader for social change and for child and family support. Its projects and innovative practices often influence the drafting of regional and national public policies.
Campaigns for the dissemination of the rights of children and adolescents and welcomes children in situations of risk, vulnerability, crisis, threat or violation of their rights.
Every Tuesday, the organisation Cristo de la Calle, which works with marginalised children in the North of Equador, organises workshops for children and their families to raise awareness of various issues. The workshops are usually followed by a mass distribution of canasta familiar, i.e., a basket filled food and other essentials to meet the needs of the families. On 9 September, Cristo de la Calle organised a workshop about the body and sexuality. In fact, a number of the children helped by the organisation are themselves victims of abuse or come into contact with taboo subjects.
The workshop kicked off with various non-verbal games using the body, in order to allow the participants to break the ice and to relax as talking about one’s body does not adhere to the social norm. Once the participants were feeling a little more confident, they were put into groups and asked to discuss three questions: What does sexuality mean to you? When you were children, which questions did you ask your parents? How did they react to such questions? In order to facilitate the discussions, each participant was invited to discuss the questions in smaller groups before sharing their thoughts in a group discussion.
During the feedback, the participants and the team of social workers and psychologist emphasised the importance of the fundamental right to self-respect and to respect one’s body, be that person a child or an adult.
Another point to come out of the discussion was that through daily signs of affection, parents help increase their child’s confidence in them and thus the respect that their children have for them. Finally, the participants deemed that the best way to talk to their children about sexuality was not to explain what leads to the act of having sex, but rather talk about the biological and details of the act itself.
Translated by Malikha Alibhai
The least which can be said is that the holidays were far from relaxing for the children of Cristo de la Calle !
Indeed, with the support of volunteers and staff of the organization, about 20 children raging in age from 4 to 18 participated in various activities and outings set up by the organization in January and February.
They had great fun in the Yaguachi tourist resort, had a dip in the swimming pool of the famous hotel Montecarlo or even better, joined gymnastic, theater and fitness clubs in the Céntrica Bulevar Park.
All these outings were vital to liven up the daily lot of these children going through hardship.
With their heads filled with memories, all of them, little ones as well as teenagers, headed back to school this month!
Translated by Marie-Catherine Arnal
In 1954, the UN General Assembly made the recommendation that all countries should implement a worldwide day for children, which would be a day for international fellowship and understanding based around children, and would promote activities for the wellbeing of children around the world. This message was heard loud and clear in Ibarra. The Cristo de la Calle association and the corporate group El Norte have answered the call, and organised a day of activities for the 165 children who are supported by the foundation.
The event took place at the Yuyucocha recreation centre, with many different activities on offer, such as magic workshops and face painting, while a juggling show and magic tricks delighted both young and old alike! The youngest children got the opportunity to get actively involved and were very pleased with everything.
Through this event, the Christo de la Calle foundation has reaffirmed the rights of children and adolescents to play and to have fun (a right recognised in the Declaration of the Rights of Children.)
Nineteen years is something worth celebrating! Cristo de la Calle took advantage of the occasion to organize an Open House on October 13, 2012, which gathered families and friends of the organization in Ibarra.
Thanks to support from its friends and partners, the association was able to provide sporting events, information stands about the organization’s activities, fun and educational workshops, raffles, and more for the day’s festivities.
In addition, children and guests were able to enjoy a special dance performance.
Even though the sun didn’t come out, the public was still able to learn more about the organization, with various activities to entertain both children and adults alike.
In the end, sharing and good spirits reigned over the day!
Divided by age group (3-5 years, 6-11 years, and adolescents), each participant was paired with a social educator, a family educator, and volunteers.
The activities offered were varied and included swimming, structured games, painting, drawing, therapeutic dance, traditional games (spinning top, lawn bowling, skipping rope, hopscotch…) and walking excursions to different sites such as the Yuyucocha tourist complex, the Guayabillas hill, the Peguche waterfall and the Yahuarcocha lagoon.
Recreational activities are an important element of holistic child and adolescent development since they encourage social and interpersonal relations. It was thus necessary to carry out this recreational activity while having as an objective to encourage environments in which the children and adolescents can play, jump, run, share, and socialize.
The 70 children and adolescents served by the foundation who participated with enthusiasm and who benefited from the different organized activities demonstrated their desire for this type of activity to continue to be promoted in order to encourage integration and healthy relaxation. These moments are privileged occasions for the children to share amongst themselves, inside and outside of the foundation, and to meet up in a different environment. This recreational activity, which concluded on August 17 with a stroll on the Las Peñas beach in the province of Esmeraldas, was a big hit with the participants. This type of activity will be renewed over the course of the year.
On August 17, the beneficiaries of the Cristo de la Calle foundation visited the Las Peñas beach near San Lorenzo. For 150 children, teens, and their families, it was a day of recreation in which all could share. Contact with nature is an important element in child development; the activity encourages physical and interpersonal contact between family members, with the objective of strengthening bonds among them in a context in which they can share, play, amuse themselves, and maintain family ties.
The Cristo de la Calle foundation’s objective with this outing was to provide children, teens, and their families a different recreational space in order to strengthen their family ties. This visit closed the vacation camp that Cristo de la Calle held during a month in the summer and allowed the organization to better understand the perception of its beneficiaries, who had indicated that these types of activities would help them and their families share, enjoy, and integrate with each other, while familiarizing themselves with new places.
Each group was coordinated by a social educator and a family educator, with the collaboration of the parents, who nevertheless remained responsible for their own children. The participants were offered breakfast, lunch, and refreshments, as well as a canoe ride, to ensure that well being, integration, and recreation for all was the flavor of the day.
65 adolescent beneficiaries of programs of the founding members of the Consortium of NGOs for Ecuadorian Family and Children (Consorcio de Organizaciones no gubernamentales a favor de la Familia e Infancia Ecuatoriana (CONFIE), participated in a youth camp from Thursday, August 16 to Monday August 20 in Crucita, a beach south of the city Manta. The five teenage members of Cristo de la Calle and their companions, were able to enjoy meeting fellow peers, the sea, sports, games, and activities proposed by the animators highlighting various themes.
By actively participating in sharing their ideas and working with fellow campers, the teen participants they were able to successfully collaborate in the implementation of these activities.
The meeting’s main objectives were to promote youth empowerment, they themselves being the protagonists of the camp (organization, self-financing, business planning), and strengthen their capacity to socialize with young people from other backgrounds and different cultures.
This meeting was also intended to facilitate the acquisition and consolidation of the values of solidarity, intercultural and accountability.
Upon their return from the camp, these young people were enthusiastic, motivated, and encouraged to participate in other camps including meeting other teens from Ibarra, organizing trips, activities, and promoting leadership workshops.
In the near future further integration of a larger number of teenagers partaking in the process of youth empowerment is planned, creating opportunities for regular meetings.
Cristo de la Calle has devoted a day to encouraging solidarity and understanding amongst children. This event, held on 8th June at the Yahuarcocha Lagoon, brought together 138 boys, girls and teenagers with the aim of promoting recreational spaces through leisure activities, and was designed to support the integration and promotion of the rights of children and adolescents.
This event, which took place amidst a joyful atmosphere, gathered together all of the child beneficiaries of the foundation, who demonstrated great enthusiasm and happiness at spending time together and taking part in the activities organised by Cristo de la Calle.
The Cristo de la Calle association is located in Ibarra (city of Ibarra website) at the foot of the Andes (2200 metres above sea level). Ibarra is a city in northern Ecuador and is the capital of Imbabura Province. It is located at the base of the Imbabura volcano, on the left bank of the Tahuando River, 73 kilometres northeast of the national capital, Quito.
With 131,856 inhabitants (according to the 2010 census taken by the national institute for statistics and census), Ibarra is very cosmopolitan, with a population consisting of mixed-race residents, indigenous people and afro-Ecuadorians—a very rare assemblage in the Sierra region. The city is very lively during the week and is considered the economic, educational and scientific centre of northern Ecuador.
Upon learning that there were many children in unstable homes in Ibarra and the surrounding area, Juan Francisco Santacruz and Claudia Ibadango decided to found an association to assist at-risk children and families. The idea for the association arose from discussions between the founding members and street children. These simple, informal discussions gave rise to concrete action—weekend support meetings, followed by the opening of a children’s home. The association’s founders still remember vividly the event that led to the establishment of the home.
On the evening of 12 October 1993, the founders decided to help five children, an adolescent mother, and her daughter by taking the family in at the San José social residence centre, the first one they’d opened, for a period of two months. At the end of that same year, La Curia, a Catholic association, granted them the use of a house on Maldonado Street. The house was renamed “Cristo de la Calle” (literally, “Christ of the Street”) and became the association’s second centre. Cristo de la Calle soon saw a sharp increase in its needs due to the ever greater number of people requiring the association’s support.
Although Cristo de la Calle’s activities were made more difficult due to its meagre financial and material resources, its contributions to the community soon came to be recognised and supported. In 1995, Cristo de la Calle received support from INFA, the Institute of Childhood and the Family, which was a private, non-profit institution at the time. INFA was a charitable association founded and managed at the national level by the incumbent president’s wife; the association involved several wealthy Ecuadorian women.
INFA helped Cristo de la Calle become established as a private association under Ecuadorian law and consolidate its activities (drafting its statutes and approving the organisation’s actions by what was then the Ministry of Social Welfare). On 3 April 1995, Cristo de la Calle officially became an association under Ecuadorian law, though it had already been operating informally for nearly two years. After the association became legally established, INFA financed the association’s activities through various subsidies granted depending on the projects developed by the association. The Ministry of Social Welfare, which later became MIES, supported Cristo de la Calle by means of two agreements which are still in effect today:
- A sum paid monthly for each child taken in by the association
- A subsidy for basic services like access to running water, furniture, and food purchases so the association can work towards its goals of promoting awareness of children’s rights among the local population and supporting families in difficulty to prevent children from being removed from their homes.
Funding soon became insufficient to meet the demand from the local population. In 1998, Cristo de la Calle initiated a national dialogue between associations (CONFIE) to exchange practices and create new ways to meet children’s needs. These exchanges between the country’s various organisations helped Cristo de la Calle review its own practices and reorganise some of its existing activities; for example, children are now given more individual attention, and the housing system has become more of a family home. Whereas workers used to communicate mostly orally, Cristo de la Calle now has a more concrete system for tracking children, with a written file for each child that can be consulted at any time by members of the organisation’s technical team. The file contains all of the child’s activities, which helps track the child’s development, and also meets certain global standards.
CONFIE has two goals: the first is to improve member association practices in terms of the children they work with. The second is to propagate this methodology to the governmental level via INFA, so that every association in the country, as well as government organisations, can benefit from the advances achieved by CONFIE.
Calle Pedro Vicente Maldonado 14-119 y Guillermina García Apartado Postal 10-01-103 Ibarra - EcuadorIbarra
Foundation’s Office : +593 (0)6 26 41 056
Juan Francisco Santacruz, President: + 593 (0)99 60 88 569
The initial founders of the association in 1993 are still with the organization today. Although their respective roles have largely evolved due to the orientation taken by the organization and the ever-increasing number of beneficiaries, they have managed to stay close to the children and have maintained the advocacy that led them to create the foundation some 19 years ago. The team is engaged and bound behind the same objectives. The individuals I met have the same vision of their mission and do not hesitate to support projects that are ancillaries to their own.
To improve the living conditions of families and children in the Imbabura province, who are vulnerable and have their rights violated.
SO1. To ensure a permanent shelter and support which allows the good development of the child and its integration within society.
SO2. To give vulnerable children and orphans the right to a family life, by creating a favorable social environment that enables them to develop their full potential and to become the actors of their own development.
SO3. To reinforce the capacity of parents to maintain a family circle that allows the child to grow in a serene and stable environment.
SO4. To encourage the local population to actively participate in the defense and respect of children’s rights.
1. Mi derecho a vivir en familia (My Right to Family Life). This project helps provide a stable family situation for children arriving at Cristo de la Calle. An institutional care centre (the casa familia) provides comprehensive protection and care for children and teens. To avoid uprooting them, if the parents are not present, the association first tries to place children with other family members. If this is not possible, the children are placed in another stimulating, loving family environment. In 2006, the city of Ibarra agreed to donate land for construction of the Los Ceibos casa familia. Previously, the association had to pay a monthly rent of $450. Today, three casas familias have been constructed, each of which can house eight to ten children. Two are located in the Yuyucocha tourist areas and another is in the Los Ceibos neighborhood.
2. Proyecto Niños libres (Free Children Project). Started in 2006, this project is carried out in partnership with INFA. It is intended for children whose parents are serving prison sentences in Ibarra. The project began because children were being born and were living in Ibarra’s prisons, remaining with their parents and unable to get out. Growing up without an education and living as prisoners as their parents did, the children suffered serious developmental delays and found it difficult to integrate into life outside prison walls. To address this, Cristo de la Calle approaches a non-incarcerated parent or immediate family members to determine whether the child can live with the family outside the prison. If this is not possible (for example, if both parents are in prison or if immediate family members do not meet the conditions for taking the child in), Cristo de la Calle takes direct responsibility for the child. The organisation takes the children into casas familias so they can grow up outside prison walls, receive an education and a experience a normal childhood. The association also ensures that the children can visit family members in prison weekly. In addition to taking charge of the children, social workers visit the parents bimonthly to meet with them and give them the simple opportunity to make their concerns heard. Prisoners can even establish a microbusiness if they wish (either inside or outside the prison), which facilitates their re-entry into society after release.
3. Apoyo a la autonomía (Supporting Independence). This project was developed for young adults with whom the association works regularly and who wish to become independent. The goal is to work with the association’s young adults, with no gender discrimination, to implement a process that guides them towards independence. By providing them with daily support, the centre helps them better understand the important stage of early adult life while giving them access to the economic, social and cultural tools necessary for growing up. By teaching young adults the concepts of rights and duties, Cristo de la Calle helps them acquire values that will make them enlightened, independent and responsible citizens.
4. Apoyo Familia (Supporting the Family). This project provides family support for the most at-risk households: ones in which children may be abandoned, abused or denied education by their parents. This association tries to anticipate and reduce child abuse through prevention and by establishing new educational methods to promote and develop a stable family model. Cristo de la Calle’s main goal is to help the child remain with his or her family. To this end, the association works with families using a methodological tool, the “comprehensive family plan”. This comprehensive plan, in which the families are required to participate, includes objectives and activities to identify and resolve issues in the family structure. If a family does not provide what is necessary for proper child development, the organisation tries to place the children with extended family members. In the most extreme cases, Cristo de la Calle initiates procedures to put the child up for adoption. For very young children or adolescents who do not fit certain criteria, the centre initiates procedures to emancipate the child.
As for the casas familias, Cristo de la Calle purchases a plot of land and constructs a house with the assistance of a cooperative. The association then sells the house to a family at a low cost so the family can own their own home. The family’s monthly payment goes towards the cost of the house instead of towards rent. So far, the project has built eleven houses.
5. Foster families. Cristo de la Calle tries to provide children with a stable family environment. The casas familias provide housing but cannot replace the love and attention given by a family. Adoption is not always possible, so the association may attempt to find an intermediate solution between living with the child’s family and adoption. The current objective is to raise awareness of the opportunity to foster a child, whether for a short time (weekends or holidays) or permanently. Early results have been promising, and Cristo de la Calle believes the foster family system is one of the most effective arrangements both for the association and for the child.
6. Finca (farming). In February 2009, Cristo de la Calle purchased over one hundred hectares of land. The parcel is located an hour and a half from Ibarra (95 km) near Esmeraldas Province. The project involves growing cacao (which is very rare in this region) organically on 90 ha, with 30 ha set aside for the finca (farming) project and 60 ha for families who live near the finca. There are also 10 ha of sweetcorn and 8 ha of banana trees. Revenue from the finca helps finance the association’s activities and will ultimately provide a sustainable source of income. The purchase, which cost $80,000, was 45% financed by private donations from Italy; the remainder of the money was provided by Cristo de la Calle. The Fondo Italo-Equatoriano helped purchase the cacao seed, not only for the plot owned by Cristo de la Calle, but also for native families living around the finca. The finca project is thus an important aspect of the association’s long-term sustainability and also serves to teach the surrounding community about organic agriculture. The association hopes to work with the local community to organise mingas to expand farming activities more rapidly. (“Mink’a” is a native term from Ecuador and Peru; in the Quechua language, it describes a grouping of a community’s inhabitants to carry out collective agricultural activities for social purposes.) Mingas allow communal work to be performed faster and better, resulting in better infrastructure. With the exception of the sweetcorn and banana-tree plots, the association does not yet earn any revenue from the farming, as cacao requires a three-year growth period before the first crop can be harvested.
7. Yuyococha tourist complex. This complex includes a large area with swimming pools, a bar, games, picnic spaces, an artificial lagoon and animals. The site is on loan from the government in the form of a lease from 2002 to 2012, with the possibility of renewal until 2017. The complex currently hosts two casas familias (Yuyucocha 1 and Yuyucocha 2) built by Cristo de la Calle; each houses eight children. The association does not own the premises but has complete use of them and is the sole administrative authority for the site. The project has always been used to helped the association finance its activities. The space is an area where the association’s children can learn and play. In addition, children who wish can work at the site by staffing the ticket office and performing occasional tasks in exchange for a small payment. In this way, Cristo de la Calle uses the site as a way to help socially reintegrate children through work.
1. Activities related to SO1. To ensure a permanent shelter and support which allows the good development of the child and its integration within society.
- The handling of the legal, social, psychological, medical and educational care of the child.
- Complete handling of the care of the child within the family home (casa familia) through daily care, schooling, leasure activities, nutrition, clothing, medical assistance, evaluation and psychological care of the sheltered children and adolescents.
- Development of PAINA (Project of total attention to childhood and adolescence): individualized work plan with specific objectives for each. The foundation has 3 casas familias, each of which shelters between 6 and 8 children (or between 24 and 32 children in total)
- Receipt, recording, evaluation and confirmation of cases involving violation of rights.
- Support towards the independence of adolescents and youths who could not reintegrate their families, or are in difficulties, the foundation help them become totally autonomous.
2. Activities related to SO2. To give vulnerable children and orphans the right to a family life, by creating a favorable social environment that enables them to develop their full potential and to become the actors of their own development.
- Search for a foster home within the immediate network of the child.
- Evaluation of potential foster families to ensure that the requisite conditions exist for the proper development of the child.
- Orientation and training of the families prior to welcoming the child, and follow-up of his or her adaptation.
3. Activities related to SO3: To reinforce the capacity of parents to maintain a family circle that allows the child to grow in a serene and stable environment.
- Socio-economic investigations of the families and creation of follow-up files in order to quickly detect any difficulties they may have encountered .
- Visit the families in their homes to follow up with the children in their care.
- Distribution of food baskets and hygienic products at a cost of $80-100 per month per child.
- Planning of family events (birthdays, día del niño, día de la familia, mingas, hikes, etc.)
- Planning of sports and cultural events for the families in order to reinforce the social link.
- Training parents how to cultivate their land (which is often unutilized) so they can grow fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Home visitation of families to provide moral and psychological support.
- Organization of various workshops for parents (workshop on the national welfare plan, establishing well-balanced nutritional menus, project planning, help with economic inititative).
4. Activités rattachées à l'OS4 : To encourage the local population to actively participate in the defense and respect of children’s rights.
- Training and roundtables targeted for parents on the subject of children’s rights.
- Creation of communication materials to raise awareness of the various support programs (prospectus, posters and radio spots).
- Implementation of training and awareness sessions to prevent ill treatment of children and to sensitize parents to the rights of children and adolescents.
- Production of community classes for parents.
124 children are the beneficiaries of grant given by INFA to the Foundation each semester. This grant does not cover the totality of the actual costs, but it does allow the foundation to continue its work. Although we do not have exact figures, it is clear that many children are taken care of by the Foundation and benefit from its activities. Cristo de la Calle goes beyond the official number of 124 children. We count almost 200 children who receive a direct or partial assistance from the association. These children are distributed within the various programs of the association. The association also provides basic services, initiates adoption procedures, provides quality psychological, medical, social, educational and hygienic care, and supplies clothing, leisure activities, etc.
No study has been formally conducted to determine the impact that the work of Cristo de la Calle has made, and it is difficult to clearly identify the population impacted by its activity. However, Juan Francisco Santacruz thinks that at least 800 families of children and adolescents have benefitted directly from the various programs. There are also indirect beneficiaries – those individuals who, while not receiving direct training, have been made aware of the issues through our public announcements (radio spots, posters, flyers) and participation in the training roundtables. Through these roundtables, the goal is to raise the awareness of 200 people, and it is projected that we will reach up to 20,000 residents through our social campaigns broadcast throughout the province.