Uruguay: “Nueva vida” for Teens from Montevideo and Tacuarembò

Uruguay Nueva vida per i giovani di Montevideo e Tcaremb

“Nueva vida” Project
is based on the “Youth Center” of Borro, one of the most degraded slums of Montevideo (the capital cityt of Uruguay). It gives the chance for more than 300 young people of studing and having a meal.
Similarly, in Tucarembò, thanks to Schoolmates Project, it was possible to build also a library for teens of the city.

The project, both in the Borro (“New Life”) and in “Tacuarembò” neighborhoods, aims to enable the poorest children to attend school regularly and motivates their studies through joint activities, reducing and preventing the phenomenon of school drop-out, very common in the area.

The “New Life” Project began in the Borro neighbor of Montevideo, with afterschool tutoring, called “Club for Children”, where three teachers helped 50 children from 6 to 12 years of age to overcome their difficulties in their studies. Thanks to this support, many students over the years have been able to pass their end of the year final exams.  

Uruguay Nueva vida per i giovani di Montevideo e Tcaremb 2Over time the “Centro Juvenil” (Youth Center), with boys between 12 and 18 years came to life. It carries out an after school activity; some teachers are at the disposal to help the students in different subjects. In the “Youth Center” they also organize specific courses (music, cooking, crafts, courses for beauticians, …) that offer a basic vocational training up to eighteen years of age.

The youth also are able to have lunch in the cafeteria of the Center free of charge. For many of them this is the only meal of the day.

The boys of the Borro neighborhood receive concrete help to support their educational expenditures: for school supplies, clothing (uniforms, tracksuits and sneakers) and means of transport to reach the school. The project assures everyone the help that allows them to follow the curriculum in the best possible way.

Recipients also receive small financial aid to avoid the need to go and work with their parents, as this fact would prevent them from going to school.

The children are in continuous contact, at least weekly, with their educators, who visit their families. The parents gratefully encourage their children to continue their studies. This attitude goes against the attitude of the majority of households in that district, who prefer that their children work, thinking that to study is a waste of time because it means they won’t receive economic help, neither in the present nor the future. Thanks to the project and to the formation based on the Golden Rule, some youth who receive aid, put in common and give back what little they have as soon as they can.

Some civil organizations help “New Life” financially, particularly for  educational infrastructure; among them the Rotary club and also a Jewish institution.

The community of the Focolare Movement supports the project by volunteering and by arranging activities such as  an “annual Bingo”, which takes place in a large shopping center that offers the opportunity to publicize the project to a wide and heterogeneous audience.

“New Life” has been repeatedly presented by the authorities of the Ministry of Social Development as a model project for other educational projects run by NGOs.

Similarly, Tacuarembò is a locality situated 400 Km from Montevideo in the interior of the country, particularly flourishing in recent years. But in the working district, “Don Audemar” where these youth live, there are big problems at the educational level. A couple of volunteers of the Focolare Movement committed themselves to help the youth who, unable to continue their studies, risked taking wrong paths. They started by involving them in sports and handicrafts activities. The group and the initiatives then multiplied and even some parents became involved.

One day a lady gave them a box of books. Little by little, spontaneously, the idea of   forming a library was born. In 2002, thanks to the support of “Schoolmates,” a place was built, where there now have many books, including educational ones. Now  whoever doesn’t have the possibility of buying text books, can study by borrowing them.  In August of that year there was the official inauguration of the new library called “Irmi”.

Over the years it has become a very popular center. Now it stays open every day and it has many members and many volunteers working there. New premises were added and an increasing number of books for all ages were also donated.

 Every year the library of “Tacuarembò,” through the support of “Schoolmates,” allows it to increase the number of books available. Now in the library, an Internet connection is also available for all children attending school through the  “OneLaptopPerChild” plan sponsored by the Government. This has allowed the youth to carry out educational research properly through Internet, instead of staying behind those who have computers at home (almost no one in the neighborhood has one.)

It was also possible to set up a small sports field in the garden and a playground for children, thus making the library site a place not only of culture, but also for meeting and having fun.

Thanks to young volunteers, information in the library is being computerized. A  State Center of the district collaborated by giving free computer lessons to the adults.

This year the Library has also received recognition from the State, through the National Library: the “Irmi” library is now called Popular Library.

Fount: www.school-mates.org