Wednesday, June 30, 2010

CIPI 101

CIPI stands for Centro Inmediato de Proteccion Infantil, or Immediate Child Protection Center. It´s basically the first stop for any child that enters the "system." The bulk of our orphanage work this summer is being done here. On any given day there are around 170 kids here, supposedly only for a space of 30 days before having to be placed in a more permanent facility or returned to their families. Kids come here for many reasons, and the majority of them are abuse victims.

There are around 55 adolescent girls, some pregnant, some with newborn babies, many pulled out of street gangs or from hospitals. There´s a group of about 25 young boys from 8-10 years old, all abuse victims, and as a group all were dropped in CIPI´s lap about two years ago, and CIPI has nothing for them to do, they can´t go to school, and there aren´t resources to teach them there, so the bulk of CIPI´s energy goes into finding stuff for these boys to do.

There is also a group of around 20-22 special needs kids, these ones get the majority of the local volunteers´time so we haven´t worked with this group a ton. The number of infants ranges from day to day as they are easier to place in homes/centers (usually under 30 days old, some with birth defects). It´s definitely an overwhelming place to walk into, but the director, Marielos, is amazing, and the few staff there really like HELP and what HELP´s done in the past.

We love working with CIPI, and have developed some great projects here. We run a weekly workshop with them. Twice a week, three hours a day, two adolescent girl groups and the boys group are rotated through three activities.

Esther has been heading up a physical activity hour, usually dancing which the girls love. The boys usually play tag or find fun physical games to play to keep them active (futbol is always an easy default, no kidding...).

Christina and Jeanette have been also having an art hour, where the kids are learning to sketch and draw, and find creative ways to express themselves.

The third workshop includes some life skills and psychology subjects, but oftentimes volunteers have found better luck just spending time with the kids, reading to them, and finding ways to make them feel important even for just a short period of time.

The CIPI project when it comes down to it really is several projects. These workshops only account for a small part of what we hope to accomplish here. Kristen Widdison, a micro-finance intern, is working on a business skills workshop project to teach the adolescent girls occupational skills to improve their chances of a more successful life than they´ve led up til now once they leave CIPI. Jeanette Langston, another volunteer, has been getting the paint project moving along quite a bit in the past week or two, which aims to improve the look of the facilities so the kids here are less likely to see this place as a punishment for being a victim of abuse, something that more often than not happens. Though they weren´t the ones who did something wrong, they feel like they are being punished, rightly so as much of the place here looks similar to a prison. HELP volunteers in the past have done murals here, and according to CIPI staff, it has done wonders for those that come through here.

One of our volunteers, McCall, isw heading up our volunteer network project, where we take advantage of the university requirement nationwide for all students to serve a certain amount of horas sociales, or social service hours. Psycology students, nusrsing students, education majors, etc... can all be recruited from right here in San Salvador to spend time working on the projects and workshops that we´ve been implementing this summer so that there is a constant, year-round source of volunteers for this very wonderful, but needy institution, and most of all for these kids.