The longest and most successful program.
The Youth and Children Education and Development Program is the longest running and one of the most successful programs being delivered by FUNDACCO today.
The program began in 1996 when Father Denis organized a group of neighborhood youth aged 14 and up with the objective to teach them about human rights, family violence, self-esteem and leadership.
The concept was to give youth the tools to develop skills that would prevent them from getting involved in gangs and other undesirable activities that were prevalent in the community. The intent was also to promote healthy lifestyle options for vulnerable teens living in their community which had high incidents of substance abuse, social and economic strife, and poverty.
As part of the program, the youth join a Youth Group called Cesar Augusto Bermúdez and become facilitators in creating activities for younger children in the community during the month of January which is considered summer holidays for grade school children in Nicaragua.
Since 1996 different topics have been taught to the young adult leaders but the core themes still continue today, which have helped youth and children to better understand the living conditions and cultural issues they face.
Between 1996 and 2007 the program was limited to the neighbourhood of Edgard Lang. In 2008 the January ‘Summer Program’ for children was expanded to six other neighbourhoods. These communities (or barrios), which were located near Lake Managua, were some of the poorest in the city.
The Summer Program continued in these barrios for a number of years. More recently, due to a decline in participation, which is a direct result of the current political situation, the program is now delivered in only four of the original seven neighbourhoods.
Young adults who attended the Summer Program as children are now facilitators in the program. The coordinator, Pedro Rafael, now in his thirties, was one of the children who attended the first program in 1996. Many of you know Pedro as Father Denis’ caregiver for a number of years until Father’s passing in 2015.
The training program begins in May of each year and consists of 3 workshops per month for a total of 24 sessions ending in December. In addition to the core topics of human rights, family violence, self-esteem and leadership, the workshops include training in arts & crafts and music consisting of children songs.
At its peak the program was attended by approximately 80 volunteer youth but today, that number is down to an average of 30 youth.
Upon completion of the workshops in December, the training is put into practice during the 3 week ‘Summer Program’ in each of the barrios. Although the number of children attending varies from year to year, participation averages approximately 500 children between the ages of 6 and 11.
During the Summer Program, the facilitators share the topics covered during the workshops with the children, using dynamics, games, socio-dramas and songs. These activities provide the children with close to a month filled with learning and happiness.
Venues and facilities that are used in each of the neighbourhoods are rented for a small fee from local community members who also participate in the organization and development of the program.
Each day of the three week program, children receive a snack that includes a mandarin orange, which is a coveted item for children in these communities.
The activities in the communities end with a ’festival’ of sorts, that includes parents of the children and others members of the barrio.
The training program concludes in the last week in January with the facilitators assembling school supply packages for both themselves and for each child that has attended the program. Parents of all who benefit express appreciation for the package.
“It is a blessing for our families since we do not have the financial resources to purchase our children’s school supplies”.
Although the program officially ends at the end of January, activities and training of the facilitators is made available for those who want to participate.
Today, facilitators are not only the newly trained young people but include adults who participated in the program as adolescents. In 2019, as a gesture of gratitude to Father Denis for the love he always expressed towards children and young people living in the neighborhoods where the activities of the Summer Program take place, the facilitators decided to change the name of the Youth Group from “Cesar Augusto Bermúdez” to the “Padre Denis Hébert Youth Group”