Ready for School (School Uniforms and Shoes)'s Blog

Update from the field

[b][u]Monday 6th February 2017 (Morning)[/u][/b]
Today was the final day of supporting the parents and carers in writing their desired stationery lists and informing them of the purpose of the task. The SKIP social work team had been meeting with the families for several weeks to go through what stationery each child needs, depending on their grade at school. Although the goal was to have all the parents come to a meeting with the team, prior to the stationery hand out, this was not a viable option for all as some work, some have caring responsibilities and some have child care commitments. The social work team helped the parents and carers who could attend, figure out what equipment their children needed and supported them in totalling up their lists to ensure it met the 50 soles limit. The aim of this task, whilst essential for deciding what they needed, was also a means of engaging and empowering the parents, carers and children.
A number of the parents and carers whom SKIP works with are unable to read or write and some have issues counting and calculating sums. The social work team used this opportunity to engage with the parents and carers and assist them in improving their own skills, such as reading and counting. The team went through the list of stationery and equipment and helped them to decide what equipment they need. The social work team had also negotiated a reduced rate with the stationary store (Copy Ventas) so the children could have enough equipment for most of the academic year. The next step was for the parents or carers to attend the stationery store later today to meet with Liz, Liam and Ed to receive their voucher and equipment.
[b][u]Monday 6th February 2017 (Afternoon)[/u][/b]
This afternoon Liam, Liz and Ed set up a makeshift workshop in the stationary store. The aim of this was to ensure they had their lists prepared and totalled and to issue the vouchers for the equipment. We arrived at 3pm and as we did, we noticed some parents and carers were already waiting for us outside. We soon realised that the majority of people still did not have their lists completed or had incorrect calculations, this was no problem however as we were prepared to support them fully to complete their lists. We immediately got on with the task in hand and began to engage with the parents and carers to selecting which equipment their children needed and made sure they were selecting equipment within their budget. We supported parents and carers, where possible, to write up their selections themselves and to also total up the amount to ensure it reached 50 soles, where this was not possible we undertook the task with them going through the process step by step.
Throughout, it was clear the impact receiving these supplies would have. Everyone was extremely grateful for the support they were receiving. In the SKIP service user review in 2016, parents and carers said:
[i]"With the help that SKIP has offered, I feel better because before I was worried that I didn't have enough money to buy everything that my children need."[/i]
It is clear from statements such as this that the parents whom SKIP work with, fear that they will be unable to support their child with equipment necessary to enable them to gain an education. Statements like this also prove to SKIP and our supporters/partners just how vital the work we do is.
[b][u]Tuesday 7th February 2017[/u][/b]
Todays objective was to support the remaining families complete their lists and ensure they received their equipment. We arrived at the stationery store at 3pm, some families were already waiting outside for our assistance. We immediately got down to work assisting them in selecting which equipment they needed. It was clear from todays workshop that some of the parents and carers had discussed amongst themselves how the process worked and supported each other in completing their list. This made the objective a smoother process compared to Monday, some families however still did not have their lists completed.
Liam, Liz and Ed once again supported these families in completing their lists and totalling the costs up. One heart-breaking moment during this process occurred when a mother and her daughter arrived at the store with their list already completed. Liam assisted them in totalling up the list and the total came to 52 soles, the limit which SKIP was able to support each child was 50 soles, the families could, if they were able to, pay the difference up to a maximum of 5 soles. Liam informed the family of the difference which they would need to contribute if their list stayed the same or if they were unable or did not want to, they could trim their list down. Upon hearing this information, it was clear to see on both the mother and daughters face that the prospect of having to pay 2 soles was unrealistic and fearful for them both.
The average income of the families whom SKIP works with is less than 400 soles a month. It is understandable that every sol counts when your disposable income is virtually non-existent. To overcome this problem Liam worked with the mother and daughter to trim down their list so they did not need to contribute any money themselves. This incident reminded us of just how much of a significant event this is for the families. It also reinforced the notion that without the support from SKIP the children would not be able to have access to equipment necessary for their education. After three hours of support, we assisted the last family in receiving their equipment.
In total, across both days we supported 188 children from 100 families in receiving school supplies. That is 188 children whom without our support would be at a disadvantage in education. Education is an important route out of poverty for these children.
Throughout both days it was clear to see how much of an impact our support would have on the children. We were inundated with thanks from families and children, and we left happy in the knowledge that they would be in a better place to engage in their classes for the coming year.
Because of our experiences supporting the families this year we have decided to use this objective as a way of supporting and educating the parents for future years. The plan for next year is to run workshops in advance of the date with the parents, via the Eco Dev programme, so that they can learn about budgeting and improve skills in adding up columns of numbers.
Although we recognise that SKIP could bulk buy the equipment and hand it to the families, we feel that this would be disempowering. This would prevent families from being able to choose the items they want and they would also be deskilled if not required to make their own budget. Instead, having families responsible for their own purchases, builds on their skills in this area while SKIP is able to provide support, ready for a time when the family is ready to leave the organisation and manage on their own.
--Liam Smith

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