In December, Nicola (one of our team members) was visiting our project with JUCONI Ecuador in Guayaquil. Supporting street children and their families, she had the opportunity to witness therapeutic sessions with parents and children in their homes, visit the schools that JUCONI works with, and to share in the fun and games of the children’s Christmas party. At the party, she had a chance to catch up with Joe Amiri who is currently working with JUCONI and ask him a few questions…
What inspired you to work with children?
I am a volunteer with the Peace Corps who send volunteers to various organisations around Ecuador to serve for two years. My time with JUCONI has been one of the most incredible experiences for any volunteer. I wanted to work with disadvantaged children and their families to help those who need it most but to also establish a good support system for them in the future.
What is so unique about JUCONI is that the work we do is sustainable. One of my first friends in Guayaquil was a kid in the community. While many of the adolescents were timid and shy around the bearded gringo, he always wanted to talk to me and was curious about my life. Months later I discovered that he had actually been part of the JUCONI therapy process with his family when he was four. That early intervention by JUCONI brought him through college and he is a role model in the community.
What aspects of your work do you enjoy most?
The work JUCONI does is so different from many organisations that I have come across in my life. Many have a centre for people to receive services, but JUCONI actually visits each family in their homes to provide therapy each week. Going to each family and getting to know their community shows us more about the reality these families live in. I joke with a co-worker that we are unofficial mayors of Socio Vivienda, one of the communities we work in, because we cannot walk one block without hearing our names.
What do you enjoy least?
The hardest part of my work is saying goodbye at the end of each day. As a member of the community development team, we are spread thin so we only visit each of the four communities once per week. It is hard giving that last high-five to a child in Socio Vivienda and having to wait seven days to see them again.
What have you learnt during your time with JUCONI so far?
I have grown so much professionally and personally. When working in the communities, I can see what a bright future the world has. Seeing how much positive change can come from small actions like youth groups, art clubs or sports club, I am looking forward to seeing what is next for these kids. Each kid really needs a space where they can be themselves and grow as individuals.
When I am not in the communities, I help with the development side of the organisation by promoting corporate social responsibility. It is wonderful to see how much people, such as those who donate through the International Children’s Trust, really care about the world and want to make it a better place. People love to help, they just sometimes don´t know how.