Drawing a Better Future
In a vulnerable community in Venezuela, UNICEF is supporting a child-friendly space where children and adolescents can receive psychosocial and psycho-educational care.
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Doriángel is nine years old. She attends a UNICEF-supported center that has been set up in her community to care for children and adolescents. In the "child-friendly space", as it is known, Doriángel has learned to read, add, multiply and subtract. "I like coming here because the teachers have taught me how to hold a pencil. They’ve also taught me to respect my parents and my family. Now, I also know that all children have rights: I have the right to food, to play, to life, and the right to health," she says.
"When I grow up, I want to be a police officer so I can protect people from being hurt by criminals in the community where I was born," she says.
She and her family recently moved to Bolívar state; since moving, she has not been able to go back to school.
The child-friendly space welcomes 15 children and adolescents three times a week. They come in groups at different times, following the COVID-19 prevention guidelines. These children and adolescents have been invited to the center by UNICEF-supported local promoters who, going house-to-house in the communities, identify children and families in need of psychological, educational, or nutritional support.
José Ángel (6), who has been attending since May, says: "I like coming here, it’s like being at school. They teach me to play games and this is my family. I like wearing a facemask too.” He wants to be a teacher and has drawn everything he needs to teach: a desk, the blackboard, exercise books, and the students.
"I have the right to feed myself, to live, and to have a home. And if they give me one, I keep it clean and take care of it," he says, to show that he has memorized what he has been taught about rights.
In the child-friendly space, children take part in guided activities such as art therapy, which lets them express their emotions through drawings. They also receive psychological care and take remedial classes, they learn about their rights and good hygiene practices, and they sing, among other activities.
Fifteen-year-old Marelys feels safe at this center. "I didn't know how to write, and my teachers here taught me. It feels like a family here; my teacher is like my mum. And the kids here are like my siblings. Also, they’ve taught me that I have the right to learn, the right to life, the right to go to the doctor (...) When I grow up, I want to be a mayor and help poor people living on the streets: give them food and things they need like clothes, shoes, houses... So they have everything they need," says Marelys.
Then there is Marcos (12), who says he wants to be a police officer so he can enforce the law and take care of people.
"I don't want criminals to hurt people or rob their houses, because it makes people sad," he says.
"Here I’ve learned to read, write and hold a pencil. And I draw and I play with the teachers and my friends. I like to sing too," says Marcos as he shows the drawing he did of his family.
"I’ve learned to always listen to my mum and dad, and that we have the right to life, to food, and to go to a doctor. I also have the right to play. I must do what I’m told at home, respect my parents and all adults," he concludes.
The child-friendly space is located in a community that experiences violence and poverty. UNICEF and its partners on the ground have therefore set up not only this center, but also a multidisciplinary team of psychologists, teachers, and social workers to provide care for children and adolescents who need psychosocial or psycho-educational support. Through this initiative, UNICEF is working towards giving these children better opportunities for development and a more promising future.