Parque La Libertad

The Impact of Crisis on Service: An Interview with Parque La Libertad

At ISA Service-Learning, we connect dedicated people looking to make a positive impact with over 20 diverse communities abroad. We have developed partnerships with over 100 non-profit, governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) worldwide that have identified needs and projects to which you can volunteer your time and contribute your strengths.

The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has impacted people and organizations in ways we never could have imagined. For non-profit and community-based organizations, adapting quickly to provide services that many members of the community rely on has been critical. ISA Service-Learning partners with many such organizations around the world. We recently checked in with Parque La Libertad in San José, Costa Rica to see how they innovated by converting traditional in-person programming to virtual workshops during the pandemic.

Parque La Libertad was created in 2007 as a project of the Ministry of Culture and Youth. The organization seeks to be a self-sustaining and inclusive public space that brings local communities together and enhances their social, economic and environmental development, with an emphasis on generating educational, recreational and cultural growth opportunities for people of all ages.

The Centro Infantil y Juvenil (CIJ) is a sector of Parque La Libertad created to provide children and young adults with a safe space for learning, leisure, and recreation. The center supports youth and families of the surrounding communities by offering after-school care services, educational programs and workshops, and creative activities.

ISA Service-Learning has been sending students to serve with Parque La Libertad since 2015!

Below is an interview between Estefanía Jiménez Porras, ISA’s Service-Learning Coordinator in Costa Rica, and Gabriela Pereira Carpio, General Coordinator at Centro Infantil y Juvenil (CIJ). You can also read more about Parque La Libertad’s virtual programs on their blog. This interview was conducted in Spanish and translated to English.

¿Qué es lo que más disfrutas de tu participación en la organización?

Me encanta la posibilidad de poder diseñar programas y gestionar la puesta en marcha de ellos con el apoyo de otras instituciones y fundaciones. El reto principal es lograr atender las necesidades reales de los niños, niñas y adolescentes, y brindarles servicios integrales que les permitan desarrollar habilidades y destrezas que mejoren su calidad de vida.

What do you enjoy most from your participation in the organization? 

I love the possibility of designing programs and managing the implementation of them with the support of other institutions and foundations. The main challenge is to fully meet the real needs of children and adolescents, and provide them with comprehensive services that allow them to develop skills and abilities that improve their quality of life.

¿Cuáles son los servicios, actividades o talleres que el CIJ está ofreciendo actualmente como respuesta a la emergencia sanitaria del COVID-19?

Estamos tratando de trasladar la oferta de servicios habituales a una modalidad virtual. Actualmente se están dando clubes virtuales en STEAM, arte y expresión creativa y para el periodo de vacaciones de medio año, también se diseñó una oferta de talleres virtuales.

Which current services, activities or workshops is CIJ providing as a response to the health emergency of COVID-19?

We are working on trying to transfer the offer of our regular services to a virtual modality. Virtual clubs are now taking place in STEAM platform, as well as arts and creative expression clubs. For the mid-term school vacations, we have designed a module of virtual workshops.

¿Hay algún proyecto nuevo que se haya creado durante este tiempo?

El proceso de seguimiento a 88 jóvenes madres que han participado del programa desde el 2015. A todas ellas se les entrevistó para conocer su situación actual y gestionar la atención de sus necesidades por medio de las instancias que conforman este programa.

Are there any new projects that have been created during this time?

Yes, the follow-up process for 88 young mothers who have participated in the program since 2015. We interviewed each of them to find out their current situation and manage the care of their needs through the entities that make up this program.

¿Cuáles han sido los principales cambios y retos que la organización ha enfrentado y/o continúa enfrentándose durante éste tiempo?

En lo personal considero que el principal reto ha sido  acomodarnos al teletrabajo y modalidades de atención virtual cuando nuestra dinámica diaria de trabajo involucra el contacto directo con los niños/as y sus familias. No todos ellos tienen acceso a recursos tecnológicos ni de conexión  a internet, los teléfonos celulares no pertenecen en la mayoría de los casos a los niños/as, por lo que la comunicación con ellos/as siempre es mediada por una persona adulta.

Bajo este escenario, realizamos una encuesta con nuestros públicos más cercanos para conocer su capacidad de conectividad, así como las temáticas que les interesan que podamos atender. De ahí nacieron las propuestas de servicios que actualmente les estamos ofreciendo, pero lastimosamente llegan únicamente a quienes tienen más posibilidades tecnológicas.

What have been the main changes and challenges that the organization has faced or continues to face during this time?

From my personal experience, I would consider the main challenge has been to adapt to telework and virtual care modalities when our daily work dynamics involve direct contact with children and their families. Not all of them have access to technological resources or an internet connection, or their cell phones in most cases do not belong to the children, so communication with them is always mediated by an adult.

Under this scenario, we carried out a survey with our closest audiences to find out their connectivity capacity, as well as the topics that interest them that we can attend to. The new proposal ideas came from the results of the survey, but unfortunately they only reach those who have more technological resources.

¿Cómo ha sido la respuesta de la comunidad ante estas nuevas iniciativas o nueva modalidad?

En el caso de las jóvenes madres, nos han agradecido mucho retomar el contacto con ellas y el poder contar con una red de apoyo en estos momentos de tanta incertidumbre.

Mientras que los padres y madres de los niños y niñas, nos han comentado que nuestros espacios han sido muy importantes para los chicos/as ya que les permiten interactuar con otros niños/as, algunos de ellos ya eran sus amigos, y poder salir de las rutinas tan estresantes a las que han estado expuestos en los últimos meses debido a la “educación virtual” que reciben de sus centros educativos y el recargo de tareas.

How has the community responded to these new program initiatives or new modalities?

In the case of young mothers, we have been very grateful to resume contact with them and to provide them with a support network during this time of so much uncertainty.

The parents have told us that our workshops have been very important for their children since they allow them to interact with other kids, and old friends, and to be able to leave the stressful routines to which they have been exposed in recent months due to the “virtual education” they receive from their schools and homework overload.

¿Podrías mencionar algún aspecto positivo que haya surgido a raíz de esta situación que consideras que sería importante de resaltar?

Definitivamente las crisis nos sacan de nuestra zona de confort y nos permiten innovar y ser más creativos en tareas que ya asumíamos como dadas y que por esto realizábamos siempre de la misma manera. Esta nueva normalidad nos pide estar aún más atentos a las necesidades de nuestras públicos y ante la sobre-oferta de cursos y talleres en línea, nos exige ser más estratégicos sobre los medios que utilizamos para poder atender no solamente a quienes tiene más posibilidades tecnológicas sino amoldarnos a las realidades tan dispares y desigualdades que viven nuestras comunidades aledañas.

Could you mention any positive aspect that has arisen through this situation that you consider will be important to highlight?

Definitely, moments of crisis take us out of our comfort zone and allow us to innovate and be more creative in tasks that we sometimes took for granted and kept doing in the same way. This new normal asks us to be even more attentive to the needs of our community and given the extra offer of online workshops, it requires us to be more strategic about the means we use to be able to serve not only those who have access to technological resources but to adjust to the realities of inequality that affect the surrounding communities.

¿Quisieras compartir alguna frase que te inspire?

“Si buscas resultados distintos, no hagas siempre lo mismo” – Albert Einstein

Could you share a quote that inspires you?

“If you want different results, do not do the same things.”-Albert Einstein

Want to learn more about our Service-Learning students options with Parque La Libertad? Discover more information here.

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