EducaFuturo and A Ganar Benefit Entire Family in Ecuador for the Win

Implemented by Partners of the Americas and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the EducaFuturo project combats child labor among the most vulnerable areas in Ecuador and Panama. 

Implemented by Partners of the Americas and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, A Ganar uses an innovate series of field and classroom sport-based activities to helps youth transfer lessons from sport, including teamwork, communication and leadership, into market-driven skills and attitudes. 

Not too long ago, Alex, 7, and Josseline, 6, spent their afternoons working in a field, grazing cows and collecting grass to feed pigs and guinea pigs. One of their most common tasks, as it is for other children in Chordeleg, Azuay, Ecuador, was recollecting toquilla straw. The material is used to create Panamanian hats which are very popular among local workers and tourists.

From 2012 to 2016, EducaFuturo Ecuador identified a total of 2,584 boys and girls involved in child labor, or were at risk of becoming involved in child labor if preventive measures weren’t taken.  Alex, Josseline, and the rest of the children were placed in Espacios para Crecer (EpC).  

EpC is an educational program that provides boys and girls who have been involved in child labor, or are at risk of falling into child labor, with a safe environment to develop self-image and personal identity, and teaches them to dream about what they can become. Activities are designed to motivate children to stay in or return to school.

Over a year has passed since Alex and Josseline, who are uncle and niece, began attending their EpC. According to Gabriela Salinas, facilitator of EpC, once they joined the program they demonstrated new interest in doing their homework, started expressing themselves better, and were excited to participate in school activities.

Alex knew that if he wanted to perform better at school he would need to put more time and effort into doing his homework. With the help of his EpC facilitator and the program, he learned to be more responsible and organized with his time. Josseline’s experience with the program has also been positive. She expressed that what she liked the most was her teacher Gaby who has helped her understand why her parents live far away.

After Josseline’s mother migrated to the U.S. and her father to Guayaquil, she moved in with her grandparents (who are Alex’s parents), Alex, and the rest of their family.

EducaFuturo uses a multi-pronged approach, also educating heads of households about the importance of an education, and the dangers and negative effects of child labor. Alex’s mother, Maria, wasn’t hopeful when he and Josseline joined the program, but once she noticed a change in their attitude she decided to look into EpC and attend some of the parents meetings to learn more about it.

Now, Maria is very involved in their education, supporting them in every possible way so they don’t miss a day at EpC, where they can take advantage of a safe learning environment. The program has had a positive effect in her family, she said. Alex and Josseline don’t spend all of their time watching TV or doing dangerous tasks in the field anymore. They would rather be at the EpC.

Alex’s 17-year-old sister Jessica saw the positive impact EducaFuturo was having on Alex and Jessica and decided she, too, wanted to be involved in a Partners program. Jessica enrolled in A Ganar, a four-phased award-winning methodology that incorporates sport to teach low-income youth important life skills that can be transferred from on the field to the workplace.

While she was hesitant to join A Ganar at first, Jessica explained that the program’s group activities ultimately allowed her to make new friends. And, playing soccer on a team taught her problem-solving and perseverance. It’s been an enriching experience that has taught her the value of teamwork and her capacity to overcome obstacles in life.