IWC Masters student brings education and hope to high social risk communities in Costa Rica
Lifting Hands began with a visit to a high social risk community where Diana observed the number of children in the street who attended school for only a few hours a day, and with no healthy place for recreation. Their parents also had little education, hindering their employability.
"The people of the slum area wanted to overcome the problems of their community through study," Diana said, "but there were few opportunities or encouragement to do so. So we began this small project with the goal of improving the quality of life of the population. In order to achieve ‘quality of life’, we developed an integrated model involving four components: academic, psychological, health and community development support.
"The slum is located in an area of great contrast in between high-class neighbourhoods and is home to about 4,000 people. The settlement is also next to a river, putting people in constant risk of flash floods and landslides. Getting to know this community brought to my attention two main defining issues of the population:
- Children with low levels of education because of lack of access or adequate support at home.
- Adults with little or no schooling, leading to few employment opportunities and perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
"For the children we create a fun and motivating learning after-school space. It's done with the help of volunteers who come once a week for four months to teach English, computer skills, mathematics, dancing, swimming lessons and jiu-jitsu as well as homework tutoring and art workshops.
"For adults we provide tools for empowerment by offering English and computer lessons and creating employment opportunities via workshops such as sewing, cooking, food manipulation and business skills.
"Today we work with more than 80 volunteers weekly. We also have the support of various local businesses and organisations. However, there is still a lot to be done for improvement and sustainability.
"In the years to come, we hope to grow and support more children and adults in other communities, and also to empower communities to improve their water resource management and environmental sanitation practices, and to protect themselves from flash floods though environmental solutions."
Today Lifting Hands has more than 80 volunteers who support around 200 students per week.
"The project has been a challenge from the beginning," Diana said, "but the academic improvement of the kids and the changes in their motivation and attitudes have made our job surpass the obstacles and encouraged us to keep on going."
For more information about Lifting Hands, visit: www.liftinghands.org