BY FRAN HALL
Through our partner network, Red Viva Costa Rica, we’re proud to have been working hand-in-hand with PANI (Patronato Nacional de la Infancia), the government’s autonomous national child welfare agency, on a pilot project that is building processes to enable children leaving care homes to thrive in the future.
Despite being one of the most stable and prosperous countries in Latin America, with a higher than average life expectancy than the United States (men 77, women 82.2) and a good literacy rate (93 per cent), 10.3 per cent of the Costa Rica population are unemployed, contributing to the 20 per cent of people living below the poverty line.
San José and Limón provinces contain bustling, up-and-coming cities, with many high-tech companies, hotels and telecoms organisations relocating and bringing new business to the area. As Costa Rica begins to diversify its work away from the more traditional agricultural Latin American professions, the danger is that the next generation will be left behind and some of those most at risk are children and young adults leaving the care system.
Government-run children’s hostels were created largely to accommodate abandoned children of migrant workers and refugees from the neighbouring countries of Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south.
These young adults will likely continue to be launched straight into independent adulthood with little or no preparation – unless there is intervention.
The network’s pilot ‘Adult Life’ programme is being run with nearly 50 children aged between 12 and 17 in two children’s homes in two cities – Puerto Limón (Limón) and Santa Ana (San José).
The children there have been enjoying a variety of activities to help them start thinking about their futures.
The network co-ordinators, William Mora and Martin Loría, report back on some of the activities the children have been getting involved with over the last few months:
My own image: On a newspaper we drew a human figure in which each one identified and expressed the things they thought they might have to deal with once they are 18 and outside the shelter. We also looked at what their feelings and emotions in that stage of life might be.
Rea, 15, said: “I want to get a good job so that when I am older, I will be able to take care of my younger brothers – they have disabilities and live with me in the shelter too. I want us to feel united and achieve our dreams.”
Exploring interests: With a game we explored interests; What things do you like? What do you want to dedicate time to and how do you want to achieve it?
Archon, 16, said: “I want to be a driver of heavy machinery, be a good dad and have a large family in a big house where there is a lot of food and people sharing! I want to be hired for my skills and my intelligence. You are the ones who will help me fulfil my dream.”
Interview with myself in ten years: We have been practicing the establishment of long-term goals and looking at strategies to achieve them.
Lefki, 17, said: “After these workshops my studies are improving. If I take more courses I have a better chance of finding a good job. I have found some I want to take already. I don’t want to live on the streets or be taking drugs and getting into fights.”
William, the network co-ordinator, says: “In addition to this we are training the caregivers in three homes on how to sustainably prepare the children for independence. We are also working to make links with potential employers in the community.”
Please pray for the ongoing impact of this ‘Adult Life’ programme and for continued good relationships between the network and the government.