The Quiera Foundation was founded in 1993 as the social branch of the Association of Banks of Mexico. Our central objective is the institutional strengthening of organizations that care for vulnerable existing and potential street children and young people aged 0–25. The vast majority of them come from marginalized communities, with single-parent households and recurrent situations of violence both within and outside the family.
Over the past 26 years, we have supported over 307,000 children and young people by various means, achieving significant results in terms of educational lags and drop-outs, mental health, and opportunities for accessing the job market. Currently, we work with 56 civil society organizations in 18 states of Mexico (we refer to them as Instituciones Fortalecidas por Quiera [Institutions Strengthened by Quiera – IFQs]). This network of IFQs includes community centres and residences for people facing problems with their socioeconomic circumstances, but who still have some family ties; and also day centres and shelters for people living on the street, who were abandoned as babies or removed from their family by the authorities due to their home situation.
The pandemic complicates our work for two reasons: First, it is more difficult to carry out our everyday work, given the physical distancing measures; and second, the economic impact affects both our target population and the individual organizations through which we operate in the territory. To mitigate these effects, we have implemented a number of mechanisms that allow institutions to continue to deliver their services.
In cases of extreme need, such as shelters catering to people living on the street and in situations of extreme vulnerability, a dual shift scheme has been implemented: Some workers follow rotating cycles of four working days and four rest days. In other cases, workers attend the hostel during the day and then return to their homes. This ensures that the various institutions always have care and teaching staff available. However, to minimize the chances of contagion, we emphasize the use of hand sanitizer, face masks and latex gloves, and regular hand washing with soap and water. Meanwhile, in community centres that do not work with those living on the street, but with people who have contact with their families, in-person services are suspended. However, the most important care services—educational and emotional support—are kept active through telephone communication.
Regarding the care of staff, we have expanded the provision of emotional support services for IFQ personnel. Taking advantage of the different alliances we have established with coaching agencies and therapists, we have secured much lower prices, which are made available to those members of staff who require them.
Finally, in some of the residences, activities have not been suspended, nor have the children and young people been sent to their families. On the contrary, not only can activities not be suspended, but many of the children or young people who under normal circumstances would return to their homes on weekends now remain in the residences. The reason is that their parents cannot provide them with the basic goods they require, even on weekends. This is not only a social tragedy, but also complicates the financial situation of residences.
We have taken a number of steps to mitigate the financial impact of COVID-19 on all the institutions that belong to our network. Internally, we have allowed establishments to redirect resources from the current call for proposals—i.e. from the 2020 budget—to providing emergency care. However, these reallocations cannot put at risk the resources allocated to pay the salaries of local staff. In addition to this, we issued an extraordinary call for resources to finance emergency care and the regular activities of the organizations. With these measures, we hope that each organization will have the flexibility of funding to meet its needs.
We have also tried to connect and redirect resources from those who have the most to those most in need. Here, our role is to facilitate the connection between those who want to donate and those in need of donations. Most of these donations are food.
Our organization, like many others in Mexico, is engaged in a comprehensive package of measures to alleviate the crisis. Despite these efforts, the element that is lacking is government commitment. Structurally, the first step is to recognize children and young people as subjects of law; moreover, it is necessary to value the work of all social organizations that support the specific situations of children and young people on a daily basis. Without each of them, the social and economic impact of this - and any - crisis would be much worse.
However, the most urgent priority is to ensure access to health care and food for the people we support, and for the staff who provide this care. This implies an effort on our part and a commitment from the government to provide basic food and hygiene items, particularly when all social organizations are faced with increasing difficulties in accessing these. It is therefore imperative to receive fiscal resources. These include not only money, but also food, face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. Only then will it be possible to remain in operation, minimizing the chances of infection for our children, young people and staff.