Chamos Chair Mariana and Chamos CSO Merren have just got back from a trip to Caracas, during which they visited a number of our projects and met with our partners and beneficiaries. Here, Mariana shares her reflections from the week...
School Meals Programme
The first stop on our trip was Niño Jesus de Praga school in Catia, where we provide 192 children with an arepa every day. This daily meal - which is nutritionally balanced to include all four basic food groups - not only improves the health of these children, but also gives them an incentive to attend school, and helps them concentrate while there. It was so lovely to meet the kids - polite, intelligent, ambitious children, who all told us that they love the arepa they get every morning.
The Oasis Project coming to life
We also visited Nuestra Señora del Encuentro school, where the construction of the Oasis Project - which we fundraised for during Giving Tuesday last year - is now well underway! We spent two mornings with the children who designed the park to measure, build and decorate, finally making their dreams a reality. It was amazing to see how the park is progressing, but the highlight was meeting the kids - intelligent, ambitious and driven 13-year-olds - and hearing about their experiences of the project. Carli, who has been part of the Oasis Project since the beginning, said: “We have been wanting a park for 8 years and we’ve been working on it for 2. I can’t believe this is finally happening!”. For these children, the majority of whom come from very poor backgrounds, without many examples of aspirations or achievements, this park represents a huge accomplishment.
Seeing the impact of WASH
It was a pleasure to visit some of the schools and community centres where we have deployed WASH infrastructure over the past three years, and to understand the impact of these donations by talking to the people that use them every day. On one of our visits we met Gladys, who works in the kitchen at one of the schools, and who told us that the filter we donated in 2020 filter has been transformational. She used to have to boil huge pots of water to potibilise it - both time-consuming and dangerous in a tiny kitchen like this one - but now, she can simply use the filter. She said: "It saves us so much time - not only me, but everyone that works in the kitchen!”
Education for All
We were also incredibly proud to attend the graduation of the second cohort of students from the Education Programme we began earlier this year. Through this programme, these 20 students - who all volunteer at community soup kitchens, and are mostly mothers of the children that receive daily meals there - have learnt the basics of education and teaching over the past 8 weeks. They will now take what they have learnt back to their communities, where they will set up their own 'education centres' to give extracurricular reading and writing support to children. The pandemic has meant that children have missed huge amounts of school in the past two years, and even now that schools are open again, the lack of teachers and resources means that most are only open two or three days a week. Community-led programmes like these are more important than ever to stop children being left behind - and it filled us with joy to celebrate these students' achievements with them and see how proud they were!
Inclusivity through Employment
While we have been working through many of our partners for a number of years, we are also always open to new opportunities for collaboration. We visited our newest partner programme, which provide training to young people with disabilities to support their progression to employment. Not only do they provide these young people with technical and social skills to help them in the workplace, but they also work closely with employers to help them understand how to maximise the potential of the employees coming from the programme. What we love about this programme is that it is about mutually beneficial partnerships - both employees and employers benefit from the more inclusive, understanding way of working promoted by the project!
Mobility is Possibility
On our final day, we were able to attend a distribution of 10 of the 100 specialised paediatric wheelchairs that we sent to Caracas last year. It was really special to have the opportunity to speak to the parents of the children receiving the chairs, and my biggest takeaway from this day was the incredible love and care of these parents - in spite of the difficulties and sacrifices that they have experienced. Many of the mothers I spoke to had been carrying their children (some of whom were teenagers) for their whole lives, because they didn’t have any other way of moving them around. These wheelchairs will make such a difference - not only to the lives of the children themselves, but also to those of their parents.
Nutritional Recovery Programme
We also had the opportunity to visit a nutritional recovery programme for malnourished babies that we have been supporting for a number of years. I was blown away by how efficiently and effectively the programme is run: the babies and their caregivers are monitored closely every week, they are weighed and seen by a doctor and nurse, and after recording and assessing their progress they are given the adequate baby formula. As part of the programme, they are also given water purification sachets - vital to avoid diarrea and gastroenteritis caused by unclean water, which hugely hampers the progress of the programme.
We left Caracas feeling very uplifted, hopeful and proud - of what we do, the opportunities and dignity we are giving these children, and the amazing community of supporters that we rely on to make this possible.
If you feel inspired to help us continue doing work like this, I would be so grateful if you would consider a monthly donation - they give us such an important base and certainty of funding to invest in sustainable long-term projects. You can sign up quickly and easily here!