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“Social Aid Is Not A Gift, It’S A Right”

This is what María Fernanda Pacheco, President of Unidad Patronato Municipal San José [The San José Council] says about the work and aid programs carried out by this municipal institution. The work is aimed at improving the living conditions of children, young people and the elderly population of Quito.

Redacción de NUMBERS
2016-07-06

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This is what María Fernanda Pacheco, President of Unidad Patronato Municipal San José [The San José Council] says about the work and aid programs carried out by this municipal institution. The work is aimed at improving the living conditions of children, young people and the elderly population of Quito.

When her husband Mauricio Rodas assumed the mayorship of Quito, Pacheco took charge of this municipal entity for one particular reason: “It’s a city I love, and I would like to give back everything it has given to me”, she comments enthusiastically.

Her commitment is also evident in the way in which she defines herself: “Venezuelan by birth, from Quito in my heart”. This is why, with a team of professionals, she intends to turn the social development projects she carries out for the benefit of vulnerable sectors of the capital city, into institutionalised, formal processes that the Council can work with continuously.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PROJECTS FOR THE BENEFIT OF GIRLS AND BOYS?
In the children’s area, we have the Guagua Centros, which are a flagship project of the City Council that began with Mauricio’s support as Mayor. There are 70 at the moment spread all around the city.

We aim to keep them smallish so that we are able to give the best attention to the children –so they can thrive and learn. We’re trying to tackle chronic malnutrition, which is currently suffered by one in every four children, by offering four free snacks/meals. With this we’re able to cover three quarters of their daily nutritional needs.

WHAT ACTIVITIES DO THE CHILDREN WHO ATTEND THESE CENTRES PERFORM?
Learning games, instruction, hygiene habits and food, interpersonal relations… We’re fully compliant with the curricula established by the Ministry of Education or Social Inclusion Ministry (MIES) according to each particular case or age range.

We’re consistently trying to improve upon the targets set forth by this curricula; and in technical aspects, at least, we do. We have more metres, green areas, and staff per number of kids. We can proudly say that after two years, our centres are gaining recognition for their excellent work; we have even improved the quality of food we provide —because we consider this to be a priority— since the allocated budget for this was increased by 30%.

WHAT PROGRAMS ARE IN PLACE FOR ERADICATING CHILD LABOUR?
There are two focus points: the Downtown and La Mariscal. Last year we did a survey about child labour and found that 49% of the children in this situation are from Quito, and the remaining 51% are from neighbouring provinces.

We’re developing a strategy to eliminate child labour through our centres Casa de la Niñez 1, Hogar de Paz and the three Guagua Quinde shelters, and also implementing strategies to cope with this issue in other nearby provinces. We work with Plan International to obtain inter-institutional support; we have the honour of being UNICEF allies –we’ve had a campaign with them since November aimed at eradicating child labour.

TELL ME ABOUT HOW YOU SUPPORT YOUNG PEOPLE
We have shelters offering housing to people in any vulnerable situation; we also have the Casas Metro Juventudes, where we run workshops on playing the guitar, learning mandarin and about art, etc., and a Social Circus where they can learn clown, juggling, trapeze and aerial silks.

Within these areas we seek to potentiate the youngsters’ skills and abilities. We aim to keep them off the streets and attract them into these spaces in order for them to develop a life-plan and especially to believe in themselves.

“VOLVER A VER” [BEING ABLE TO SEE AGAIN] IS A VISUAL REHABILITATION PROGRAM ORIENTED TO THE ELDERLY. WHAT RESULTS HAVE YOU SEEN SO FAR?
As part of the program we provide free surgery to treat cataracts, pterygium, and glaucoma. We have an alliance with the Vista para Ciegos Foundation. Last year our goal was 2.200 but currently we have reached 5.500 patients.

It is a simple operation, but the social impact is quite drastic because a person who can see again is a person that can thrive. We believe in the social re-inclusion of the elderly –they shouldn’t be cooped up in an institution: on the contrary, they are fundamental members of family life.

The Council has the vision that Quito is what it is today thanks to the commitment and effort of the elderly population. How can we give something back? Well, we can guarantee that their old age is a happy one. Our goal for this year is to double the care to the elderly in order to reach 20.000 patients.

THE BOARD MANAGES TWO TRANSVERSAL ISSUES: THE ATTENTION FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES AND WOMEN IN SITUATIONS OF VIOLENCE. WHAT ARE THE SPECIFIC EFFORTS BEING CARRIED OUT IN THIS RESPECT?
The people with disabilities are seen at a centre in Conocoto and another in San Diego, and we do home visits as well. We want to cover occupational physical therapies for people with disabilities, but also give psychological support to their families and carers. Very often the people who look after them have a heavy emotional load to deal with and they don’t know how, it’s not easy. We believe in comprehensive support.

In the field of gender equality we have the United Nation’s program Safe Cities Free of Violence against Women and Girls; Quito was the first city in America to take part in this project.

We are committed to developing two attention protocols along with the Metropolitan Police and transport companies whereby sexual violence incidents taking place in the public space and on public transport will be dealt with following the same guidelines and procedures. This project will not succeed unless we coordinate, and this is why we’re working closely with Security Secretary Juan Zapata and Transport Manager Alexandra Pérez.

Between us we intend to bring down the stats, because unfortunately 80% of the women using Quito’s cable car have been physically or psychologically molested.

Last year we were invited to forums in Delhi, Mexico city and Medellin, and we were the city that had made the most significant advances in the Safe Cities program.

HABITAT III WILL BE TAKING PLACE IN OCTOBER. DO YOU HAVE ANY PROPOSAL THAT WILL STRENGTHEN YOUR WORK AND THAT YOU WANT TO SHOWCASE AT THE EVENT?
Last December we had the Safe Cities Free of Violence against Women and Girls seminar. Several proposals were set forth for putting plans into action in cities with consideration of gender issues. At the inauguration of the event Mayor Mauricio Rodas proposed a mammoth challenge: the construction of the Metro in Quito with a gender-focused approach.

Before March we will generate a document that will be presented as a proposal of the civil society but with the commitment of the UN in order to showcase it at the Habitat event.

HOW WILL THE PROJECTS BE FINANCED IN SUCH A FINANCIALLY CHALLENGING YEAR?
This will be a financially challenging year, and during these times vulnerable peoples are the ones most affected because children have to leave school, some have to go out to work, food is limited due to the lack of resources, etc. And at these difficult moments is when social programs need to be stronger –and that is Mauricio Rodas’ commitment as Mayor: not to touch the budget allocated to social aid regardless of how difficult things become.

We have established alliances with the Andean Development Corporation (CAF) and other foundations in order to find resources, thus continuously trying to fund our operations, but in such a challenging economic environment, some institutions have had to make cuts, so we have decided to use our budget to the maximum advantage.

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In 2016 45 more Guagua Centros will be opened, and by 2019 the proposal is to have 200 all around Quito. Currently 2.200 children are supported by them, and they employ more than 385 people.

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