El Salvador is in the process of developing new educational models to keep youths off the streets, away from working in traffic lights, dropping out of school and joining gangs. Wendy Carolina Alonzo de Rodriguez is the Executive Director of the GRACHY foundation, an innovative educational center that reinforces academics with attention to a child’s physical, psychological and emotional health. The center provides comprehensive services to school-age children, adolescents, their families and the communities. They focus on creativity, offer a variety of workshops, and encourage children’s entrepreneurial spirit. This visionary center is managed by an interdisciplinary team of professionals who currently volunteer their talents and time to ensure a future generation of healthy, educated leaders.
“I want my children to learn that they do not have to wait for the labor system to absorb them, that they can take their talents, seize the day, and lead the system, themselves,”
Wendy Carolina Alonzo de Rodriguez, Executive Director of the GRACHY Foundation.
The educational center has evolved from a day care and homework club, into a Centro de Desarrollo Integral, a holistic center where an interdisciplinary team of professionals has joined talents to deliver a tailored educational plan according to each child’s need.
“We incorporate physical and emotional health, family and community care, and the nurturing of entrepreneurial talents. Every day, we seek to create a healthy learning environment where children develop academically while embracing curiosity, creativity, self-esteem, and play.”
“Most of our children’s families cannot afford to pay for our program, but we don’t want to turn them away, if we can make room for them. We would love to see our children, off the streets, and keep them away from the persuasions of criminal groups that entice them with promises of easy money. That path only leads to jail or death.”
Sadly, we have a high index of school dropouts in the country. Many children stop going to school to work in the streets. Fundación GRACHY is here to make sure that children don’t have to work at traffic lights, wipe windshields, or sit in shopping carts while moms work as street vendors. Children should be in a safe, inspiring place, learning to read, write and receiving an education.”
We want our graduates to be the future leaders who will generate employment for others; they will be the next job creators who will absorb other professionals into their industries. Some will grow up to fill certain professional roles, others will grow up with an entrepreneurial spirit. It is important to give them the tools so that they can develop this important talent, whether they want to work in music or art, business, the restaurant industry, or other types of businesses. This type of entrepreneurial education is important.
To enroll in our program, our parents first complete a registration form. We do an initial interview where we conduct a student assessment with consideration to their environment. We have a psychologist who does an exploratory exam and we conduct an educational evaluation. If the baby, youth, child or teen is struggling in any area, we like to identify that early on, so that we can provide additional support.
After 2 or 3 months, we evaluate their development and meet with the parents to share the child’s progress and set new goals.
Currently, we have a waiting list. We would like to integrate more students, but our space has been an issue. We have many families who cannot pay fees or transportation to the center because they live far away. One of our mothers, for example, is a street vendor and she takes her child with her when she works. She can’t afford the transportation charges but would like to send her son to our center. There are many cases like this one.
We are in the process of looking for a large house and for funds to pay the rent. Part of our vision is to rent a large house, like the one we looked into recently with 5 rooms, that costs approximately $700 per month. Our plan would be to have 3 rooms for the 3 different groups of children, as well as space for our medical office, an office for counseling, and one for the administrative work.”
The GRACHY Foundation is located in the city of Mejicanos, department of San Salvador. The Association is Salvadoran, and is an apolitical, non-religious non-profit whose aims, and objectives are framed within the following areas: a) Educational, b) Physical and Psychological Health and c) Social and Legal. The purposes and objectives are as follows:
Work to strengthen capacities in the areas of education, emotional and physical health, promoting social, economic and legal rights, by cultivating the learning, well-being and the rights of children and adolescents in El Salvador. The foundation also focuses on developing programs, projects, and activities for the benefit of children in the community.
Our goals are:
Promote the development and execution of projects, programs, and campaigns aimed at the fulfillment of the social welfare of children, including: education, health, economy, and human rights, within the operations of our foundation as a highly self-sustainable organization that is productive and generates opportunities for the community.
Seek strategic alliances with regional educational, health, business, and legal, specialized experts, officials, private institutions, and NGOs, finding intersections in our work that will have a positive impact on Salvadoran society, and promote child wellbeing regionally, locally, nationally and throughout Latin American.
Obtain the resources and technology necessary to expand the range of learning opportunities for children and adolescents, such as computing, music and arts, so that children and adolescents channel their free time through engaging, cultural, intellectual, and technical activities.
Empower the foundation’s team through trainings, seminars, videos, courses, conferences, and workshops.
Contribute to the spiritual and value-building lives of children and adolescents so they can lead the healthy communities of the future.
Contribute to making education an instrument for children’s transformation out of poverty. To focus on training, mentoring and assisting children who are economically disadvantaged, and from a vulnerable sector of society, and prioritize their holistic education.
Propose community impact strategies in support of the prevention of violence, crime, drug addiction, abuse and child maltreatment.
GRACHY’s team does not receive a salary for their work. The children and teens who attend GRACHY cannot always pay. Those who can, pay $50 a month, which covers after-school pick up, care, homework club, workshops, mentoring, lunch, and a snack.
For the younger attendees, if they stay a full day, the suggested amount is $100 per month.
Families of low income pay $20 per month or nothing. Moms pay what they can, if they can.
Fundacion GRACHY also accepts donations for their crayons, colors, paper, food, and cleaning supplies, which are in high demand now with coronavirus.
Fundacion GRACHY anticipates that their students’ families may struggle even more when returning to work, as they will have to play catch up following the long quarantine. Any and all donations will be greatly appreciated.