Inspiration

Since 2015, the team has been carrying out the “Nazaret’s Escoleta Matinal” project, which provides socio-educational support to children with low school performance and a high rate of absenteeism linked to contexts of social tension and family breakdown. The objective of the project is to reduce school failure, promoting greater integration of the beneficiaries in the learning environment.

The project benefits 30 children, between 4 and 12 years old, and 30 parents/caregivers from families with serious cultural, economic, socio-emotional and educational deficiencies. Many of them are single-parent families, at risk of social exclusion, without stable employment and dependent on social benefits. The aforementioned project is located in the “Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados” School, placed in the peripheral neighbourhood of Nazareth, which has one of the highest rates of inequality and poverty in Valencia. The School is, in most cases, the only educational intervention for the users. This situation, together with a deficient use of free time, increases the risk of social exclusion.

In this context, volunteering has been a key part of the project since its inception, which recognizes the importance of promoting a critical and conscious citizenry on inequality through actions aimed at improving the reality of these children in an effective way. In this sense, the “Escoleta” not only benefits child referrals but also sensitizes and opens the opportunity for volunteers to collaborate every day.

However, the health crisis caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) made these children and their families “more exposed” and vulnerable groups. The consequences of COVID-19 in children present a paradox. On the one hand, it is said that they are the ones that best resist the disease because, although they could be infected like any other people, the percentage of seriously ill patients is very low. But, on the other hand, it is one of the groups most affected by the consequences of the measures taken to combat the pandemic. Children suffer as much or more than adults from the economic consequences of this crisis. Furthermore, in those cases in which the situation of poverty or exclusion already existed before the crisis, the gap and social vulnerability widens.

The interruption of school activity, despite the efforts made by many schools and a large part of the teachers, has slowed down or greatly limited the education of children. In addition, inequities not only do not disappear with online teaching, but they are exacerbated. The reason is that the social consequences in childhood are evident. Social differences are deepening between those children who live in spacious houses, maybe with a garden, internet access and parents concerned about their well-being and education, and those other children who live crowded together in a few square meters, sometimes with many relatives or even sharing the house with several families, and most of the times, with caregivers without any educational skills.

The consequences of the measures adopted to combat the pandemic have been much more serious in families who are in a situation of greater vulnerability. In Spain, one in four people is at risk of poverty and exclusion and, in the case of the child population, it reaches almost 30% of children. In the aforementioned context, it is important to know that, despite the fact that many administrations, schools and families have adopted measures, the truth is that negative impacts are taking place. And the key is to ask yourself: while confinement lasts, before this crisis is overcome, what can we do?

For the Let’s Play team, it is clear that determinism does not exist. Inequalities, violence against children and lack of universal access to quality inclusive education are not inevitable. They are and must be reduced and, finally, eradicated. For us, inequity is not a fact, it is an option. We can fight for it to not exist or reduce it to a minimum. Now it is up to all of society to react. The time to do so as arrived.

Our proposal stems from the need to prioritize the shortcomings of these vulnerable group, carrying out weekly recreational activities with children and advising families on their care. The challenge is to avoid an emergency within the health emergency and that the marginality of this sector of the population alongside the inequalities between boys and girls do not increase.

To this end, we consider of interest the growth, development and strengthening of a critical and conscious citizenry of this marginality and inequality, which could assume with determination the obligation to understand its role in the fight for a more just and dignified world. The practical expression of this fight would take place through volunteering.

Volunteering will be presented as an opportunity for civil society not only to become aware of a situation of close inequality, as is the case of vulnerable children in the Nazareth neighbourhood but also to act to mitigate the negative effects generated by the COVID-19 crisis. This is made possible through the opportunity to come into contact with a different reality and actively combat driving factors of social exclusion. In this way, it is expected to generate a direct impact not only on the quality of life of the vulnerable families but also on part of the civil society.

Overall objective:

Through volunteering, we are determined to alleviate the negative impacts of the situation generated by COVID19 on children at risk of social exclusion

Specific objectives:

  • Create a virtual communication platform (website) through which volunteers can carry out recreational activities with children in situations of social exclusion;
  • Recruit and select volunteers interested in combating the factors that generate social exclusion during the COVID-19 crisis;
  • Plan and carry out with the children recreational activities related to education in values;
  • Plan and hold meetings aimed at guiding the families in the children care and education process.
  • Offer the platform to entities dedicated to the protection of people at risk of social exclusion during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Train volunteers in carrying out recreational games based on education in values.

How does Let’s Play will work?

Volunteers:

We already have a large network of potentially interested volunteers linked to the "Nazaret's Escoleta Matinal" project, who can spread the word about the initiative. In addition, we will have the collaboration of other voluntary platforms such as hazfalta.org.

Selection method for the volunteers:

The selection criteria consist of being an adult over 18 years of age, with training and/or experience in child support and intervention. The total number of hours dedicated to the project by each volunteer is approximately 2 hours per week to carry out values education games under the supervision of a psychologist and a pedagogue. It is an essential requirement to present a certificate of crimes of a sexual nature (according to Spanish regulations, it is the only certificate that is issued to work regularly with children).

Volunteers registration:

Volunteers access a specific section of the website where they will have to fill in the following form:

  • Name, surname and ID; PASSPORT
  • Age
  • Previous experience
  • Training
  • Are you familiar with the new communication technologies?
  • Do you have availability to receive prior training? (drop down on the website: pre-established days and times, with the possibility of choosing more than one option).
  • Do you agree to connect at least once a week?
  • Are you interested in participating in at least two follow-up meetings per month? (drop down on the website: pre-established days and times, with the possibility of choosing more than one option).
  • Attach CV
  • Attach certificate of crimes of a sexual nature

In addition, they will need to fill up the following information :

  • Who do you want to play with?
  • Age (drop down on the website: 4-5, 6-7, 7-8; 9-12)
  • Which are your schedule preferences? (drop down on the website: 10:00am-11:00am; 11:00am-12:00am; 4:00pm-5:00pm; 5:00pm-6:00pm; 6:00pm-7:00pm, 7:00pm-8:00pm).
  • Do you want to play in a group or individually?
  • Are you willing to work with caregivers?
  • Game preferences (drop down on the website: pre-set game options)

Identification of the children:

Within the context of the Nazareth neighbourhood, and following up on the “Nazaret’s Escoleta Matinal” project, we will initially work at least with 90 people who have previously been identified within the project. They are: 30 children (4 to 12 years old) at risk of social exclusion; 30 caregivers or family members regardless of their age; and 30 volunteers over the age of 18. Regarding the region of origin, 10% of the beneficiaries come from Latin America, 17% from North Africa and 73% from Spain, mostly of gipsy origin. This participation of the social fabric of both southern and northern countries implies a multiplier effect, aimed at the social integration of children from other countries and cultures, and the elimination of prejudices by the volunteers.

The network of entities dedicated to the protection of people at risk of social exclusion during the COVID-19 crisis that has been identified in an initial data collection is the follows:

  • Valencia City Council social services
  • Red Cross
  • ANAR Foundation
  • Save the children
  • El Arca Asociación
  • Unicef Valencia
  • Caritas Nazareth
  • Help in Action
  • European Network to Combat Poverty and Social Exclusion

Contact with families:

In order to introduce families to the platform, a phone call is made at first to find out if they have the means to be part of the project (devices and Internet connection) and their availability of connection. A set of questions is established that the person responsible for the call will have to ask families. The responses must then be transferred to a protected form on the website so that a profile of the beneficiaries can be created. This data can only be accessed by the project coordinator.

Set of questions:

  • How many children are there in the home and which are their ages?
  • Do they have the means to connect and play? Which? (drop down on the website: computer, tablet, mobile, 3g connection, 4g connection, wifi connection).
  • Do they have a safe space to do recreational activities? Which? (drop down on the website: living room, room, kitchen).
  • Which are their schedule preferences? (drop down on the website: 10:00am-11:00am; 11:00am-12:00am; 4:00pm-5:00pm; 5:00pm-6:00pm; 6:00pm-7:00pm, 7:00pm-8:00pm).
  • Are the caregivers interested in participating in a weekly meeting? (drop down on the website: calendar with time and day of the week preferences - Monday to Friday).
  • Are caregivers willing to play with children while they are playing with volunteers?

Leisure activities

Play is one of the most important pedagogical tools that boys and girls can use from birth. Through the game, children socialize and, therefore, learn. They generate systems of hierarchies, values, knowledge, psychomotor, sensory developments, etc.

According to the author Benítez (2009), through play the child communicates with the world since from birth it is their main language. With the game, he shows an interior life path, expressing desires, fantasies, fears and conflicts. He develops his process of self-knowledge and, therefore, his level of self-esteem, as well as the level of empathizing with those around him. They learn to manage past, present and future. It is a constant stimulus that makes them develop their psychomotor, sensory abilities, acquiring a command of speech and language.

Based on different theories of learning, we resort to those made by authors such as Vygotsky, Bandura, Brunner or Malaguzzi. In this case, the main focus of union is in the importance of socialization as a means of learning and in the use of play as a process of acquiring knowledge, skills and guidelines. Keep in mind that playing can even be considered a privilege within families in vulnerable situations.

The lack of an adult or the attention in families with a tendency to dysfunctionality limits the social learning necessary for human development and insertion in full life. The child which is in an unprotected situation has a very limited learning ability via self-discovery that takes place during play and, therefore, limits and conditions the important acquisition skills of human development. Families where authority figures are not found, the lack of stimulation for development creates the need to incorporate a companion in the lives of children as a point of educational support.

Voluntary collaboration is therefore of great importance in order to make something as basic as the game accessible. For this, the present proposal invites to work through shared teaching, which is characterized by being a methodology based on cooperation as a teaching method. In this case, the volunteer staff would witness the learning carried out by the children, which, in turn, will be fed back by social learning. It is about socialization as a means of transformation.

In order to carry out this challenge, the volunteer staff will adopt the role of companion and facilitator, making the game accessible and facilitating the stimulation of the children. In order to know if an adequate evolution is being carried out, through this accompaniment a continuous evaluation will be made through observation, as well as the recording of the results obtained in the different games in order to prepare a specific profile for each girl/boy. These analyzes will be sent to the corresponding centres so that they can carry out an adequate evolution of the development of each girl/boy.

Proposals for activities and scheduling of sessions: in each session, more than one activity may be carried out, depending on what is established and the time. The tables with information on the activities are available in a Drive, whose link is available in the "Try it out" section.

How will volunteers connect with children?

A weekly agenda will be designed with the availability of each volunteer and children. On a regular basis, volunteers and families will receive an email with this agenda and the planning of activities that will be carried out. In the event that the caregivers are illiterate, a phone call will be made.

In order to make the connection between children and volunteers, there will be a virtual room (an online playground) created on the page to facilitate access to the videoconference.

How will the monitoring of the activity be carried out?

Follow-up with volunteers:

At the end of the videoconference session, the volunteers will skip a simple self-evaluation form with test questions (the child has been receptive; it has been difficult for him to concentrate; he has some added difficulty...) Likewise, a room will be set up to hold weekly meetings of the volunteers with the pedagogue and the psychologist. In this opportunity, they will be able to suggest activities.

Follow-up with children:

The first session with the children will consist of an interview with the pedagogue or the psychologist, which will define:

  • Game preferences
  • Skills: reading, writing, counting
  • Gender preference to play

In addition, weekly video calls will be held with caregivers.

Shoot a message

Section for queries, suggestions and complaints.

Means of fundraising

  • Advertising on the website
  • Sponsorship of one or more companies (corporate social responsibility)
  • Private donations
  • Crowdfunding

Minimum resources needed

  • 2 pedagogues: the pedagogical work in this project is essential to coordinate, evaluate and implement educational and didactic game programs. In this case, to be able to monitor and evaluate the project. All this complemented with psychological attention at all times. Besides, the pedagogical work must encompass the need to train volunteers based on the objectives that are required, in this case, education in values as essential as empathy, secure attachment, healthy competitiveness, self-knowledge, self-esteem, among others. It will seek to promote the organizational climate and respect within the volunteer staff and the work climate with the children, as well as in the family environment, implementing a coeducational and equitable methodology of social learning, based on knowing how to be, be and coexist in society. Likewise, a psycho-pedagogical profile will be prepared to deepen the knowledge, analyzing the needs posed from the psychological diagnosis in the children.
  • 2 psychologists: psychological work is necessary for this project as a complement to pedagogical work. The most specific job would be to detect the emotional and affective needs of each child and to be able to “connect” the child with a volunteer with whom they can fit in. Another of the specific tasks of the psychologist is to make a diagnosis of the special needs of each student, to create specific activities to help develop these skills. Through a diagnosis, the psychologist will identify the child's behaviour and, if it is not appropriate, will design activities to promote or eradicate behaviours. The main focus will be on promoting the development and learning of each girl/boy with activities related to motivation, intelligence, creativity and communication or social skills.
  • 1 coordinator: the work of the person responsible for coordination will consist of planning and monitoring the activities of the human and material resources related to the project (design, organization, evaluation and monthly reporting). Furthermore, she is responsible for the financial control and management of the activities carried out, as well as for the selection and coordination of the volunteer team (recruit, recruit, select, retain, manage and coordinate training).
  • 1 web developer: a programmer specialized, or specifically dedicated, to developing World Wide Web applications or distributed network applications that are executed through HTTP from a web server to a web browser.
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