The longest and most successful program.
The Youth and Children Education and Development Program is the longest running and the most successful program being delivered by FUNDACCO today.
The program began in 1996 when Father Denis organized a group of neighborhood youth ages of 14 and up with the objective to teach them topics such as human rights, family violence, self-esteem and leadership.
The concept was to give youth alternatives and 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 a healthy lifestyle option for vulnerable teens living in community which had high incidence 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 adults but core themes still exist today which have helped youth and children to better understand the living conditions and cultural issues they are faced with.
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 four of the original seven neighbourhoods.
Young adults who attended the Summer Program as a child are now facilitators in the program and the coordinator, Pedro Rafael now in his thirty’s, was one of the original children who attended the program in 1996. Many of you know Pedro as Father Denis’ caregiver for a number of years prior to his passing in 2015.
The 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 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 program concludes with the 3 week ‘Summer Program’ in each of the barrios. Although the number of children attending varies from year to year, today’s 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 full of 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 margarine orange which is a coveted item for children in these communities.
The activities in the communities end with an assembly or ‘festival of sorts’ that include parents of the children and others members of the barrio. Song, dance and skits are performed by the children for everyone in attendance.
The program concludes in the last week in January with the facilitators assembling school supply packages for both themselves and for each child that have 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 made up of young people but include adults who participated in the program as an adolescent. As a gesture of thanks 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, in 2019, the facilitators decided to change the name of the Youth Group from “Cesar Augusto Bermúdez” to the “Padre Denis Hébert Youth Group”