SKIP: A Holistic Approach to Promoting Education for Disadvantaged Children

Supporting Kids in Peru (SKIP) is a UK, US, and Peruvian NGO charity, working with impoverished families in El Porvenir and Alto Trujillo, in Peru. The primary aim is to enable children to utilise their right to an education, however by taking a holistic approach, SKIP works with the entire familial unit to do this. This means focusing on key aspects such as education, economic stability, emotional well-being, and healthy and safe living environments. SKIP promotes empowerment and believes that by working in partnership within communities, people can be empowered to make change.

SKIP is comprised of volunteers from these communities as well as volunteers from overseas. When SKIP formed in 2003, local professionals were motivated by the need for education support and joined in on the mission. Many children had never studied and were too old to attend primary school, however, with the help of volunteers 85 children who had been selected were able to commence school after passing placement exams.

The need for a holistic approach soon followed and as the project grew training was provided to parents so that they could create their own businesses and obtain an income to prevent their children from having to work. It wasn’t until 2012 that SKIP gained registration as an international NGO which meant that volunteering visas could be granted to long term volunteers the following year.

SKIP has a variety of programmes available for the communities they serve. The primary education system in Peru is disadvantaged and involves little emphasis on understanding, analytical skills, or problem solving. When SKIP first tested the student’s academic performance, most of the students were performing years below their grade level.

Therefore, SKIP aims to fully finance education, and support the development of emotional intelligence alongside therapeutic treatment for children by using individual therapy or group sessions.  In 2014, SKIP was able to improve Math scores by 29% with reading comprehension scores improving by nearly 50% showing the determination and motivation of the staff.

Additionally, SKIP also trains and supports parents and carers so that they are more aware of their child’s educational needs which maximises parental involvement and allow parents to acquire behaviour management techniques that will impact the family dynamics. Feedback found that the parents or carers felt valued and empowered with a commitment to continuous learning.

Also, SKIP promotes daily access to a library so that children can get help with their homework. This also encourages children to source information for themselves using the reading materials available. SKIP values the importance of this because some parents may not be literate, and so help may not be readily available at home. The library also provides a safe place where children can be intellectually challenged. Once homework is completed, there are educational games available for children to explore other interests.

Children are unlikely to have similar reading materials at home due to poverty and disadvantage which means they are not able to practice reading and so cannot develop skills. SKIP also offers a library that has at least two volunteer tutors to attend each three hour library session so that support can be offered.

There are also family support programmes available which include a dental campaign that not only checks children’s teeth and provides fillings when necessary. There is also preventative care and children are taught to properly brush their teeth. There are also sight tests in which glasses are provided to children if they are required.

The social work team focuses on empowering parents to expand their skills and abilities and can access advice daily with home visits being carried out twice a year at a minimum. By doing this, 14% of the people who were living in poverty in 2010, by 2014 had crossed the poverty line.

SKIP also have an economic development programme that stresses the importance of saving. There are also business workshops aimed at those who may want to develop a business, attendance in these workshops was over 85% with 36 women participating showing the emphasis on promoting equality.

Liz Wilson, the director of SKIP believes that by using a holistic and evidence-based approach, families are empowered and work can be done to help stabilise the entire unit. By working with families and witnessing their commitment and aspiring nature, it is hard to not find it motivating and inspiring. SKIP promote the availability of the services, but Liz Wilson believes it is the families that put the hard work into these interventions.

Whilst volunteering is extremely rewarding, it is not without its challenges. Liz Wilson stresses the importance of stepping back from fulfilling the volunteers’ own needs and looking at those of the project and how some tasks may be necessary and beneficial overall. Individually, we cannot change the world, but there is enormous value in shared contribution.

Brad Pitt Rebuilds Homes After Hurricane Katrina With Community Support

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Deemed the power couple in Hollywood, Brad and Angelina have not failed to be noticed for their humanitarian efforts and this is no exception. A decade after the disaster of Hurricane Katrina, Brad Pitt and his foundation Make It Right has been a blessing to 109 families devastated by the hurricane. Famous for his acting ability, Brad is no stranger to our screens and has been propelled into fame for his roles in Thelma & Louise, Ocean’s Eleven and on the other side of the camera produced and starred in the Academy Award winning film 12 Years a Slave.

Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in August 2005 killing at least 986 Louisiana residents in its path. New Orleans saw 70% of its occupied units damaged which is a huge amount of people left without a home. I cannot imagine the detrimental effect it would have to see your home and belongings displaced, ruined and lost in such a short space of time.

With winds of up to 140 miles per hour stretching across 400 miles of land it cannot be denied the catastrophe this caused. Whilst levees for the Mississippi River were reliable, the same cannot be claimed for Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Borgne and the marshes on the east and west of the city which inevitably flooded the area.

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Determined to help, Brad Pitt decided he would rebuild homes, but he also was under no impression it would be an easy task. It quickly became crystal clear how hard this undertaking would actually be. Through his foundation and with the determination of local residents, Brad began to encourage prestigious architects to lend a helping hand. The help of Shigeru Ban, Thom Mayne, and Frank Gehry was enlisted to tackle this mammoth project with the added challenge of designing and building eco-friendly homes.

Photographs by Alexei Lebedev/Momenta for Make It Right. These images are to be credited "Alexei Levedev/Momenta."
Photographs by Alexei Lebedev/Momenta for Make It Right. These images are to be credited “Alexei Levedev/Momenta.”

The goal was to develop hurricane-resistant homes that were cheap to build and live in. Around 30% of the population was thought to be in poverty which highlighted the importance of building homes that were affordable and would not put the vulnerable at more financial risk. It was hoped the homes would help residents escape the poverty trap, and it was equally important to also allow community members to make most of the decisions regarding the designs. As a result of the collaboration, the Make it Right foundation built aesthetically pleasing houses that catapulted the area into being a tourist attraction, and I can see why!

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Equipped with the best architects and the local community what could go wrong? Bureaucracy of course with forgivable loan structures, family financial counseling, lot rights, and HUD grants to name. However, these hurdles did not stop the celeb, his team and the community from meeting their goals. Rebuilding the neighborhood cost around $26.8 million which is thought to have been funded through federal loans and donations.

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Although it is unclear whether this sum dented Brad’s bank account, it definitely showed his devotion to humanitarianism because he was very hands on with this project. Not one to shy away from his efforts, Brad has admitted he enjoys seeing the residents making use of their homes and converses with them often. Brad Pitt definitely met his goal considering a resident claimed their utility bill was around $24, jealous?

Currently shooting for a war film, Brad is excited to return to New Orleans for filming, claiming the area is so great for filming that it’s never a fight with studios as they love it and clearly he also loves the city very dearly!

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