“Raising girls to be independent and confident”

By Linda Karvonen.

(Taken from ICYE Federation Newsletter, 24th issue)

My name is Linda Karvonen. I am a Finnish ICYE volunteer working now for six months in the orphanage Hogares Providencia in Toluca in Mexico.

It is made for girls in difficult situations, for example girls who are beaten, sexually exploited, ignored by their parents or with some other problem that makes it impossible for them to stay with their families. Some of the girls have been part of street gangs and in real danger of living in the streets permanently. The orphanage is not very big, at the moment there are thirteen girls living in the house, aged 5-19, so it is possible to see it more than a home than an orphanage. Some of the older girls have lived there since they were about ten years old. Adoption is an option, but it’s rare that somebody does that because most of them are older than ten years. Most of the girls who come to Hogares Providencia are referred by the governmental agency Desarrollo Integral de la Familia (DIF). In Hogares

Providencia the girls are provided a safe home, education, upbringing, food and somebody who cares about them. The three women that care of the girls, called “tias” (aunts) work in 24 hours shifts, every three days. They hug them, reprimand them if needed, cook, wash, and them help with the homework, as a mother would do. The only difference is that these so called mothers have thirteen children, which makes it impossible to give the girls a lot of attention, but they do theirbest.

Every girl has a task to do every day with the goal of learning to be responsible and taking care of thehome. It may be about washing the dishes, setting up the table, cleaning the toilets or washing the floor. The tasks change every week. If the girls don’t complete their tasks, they have to do a lot more the next week or they are punished in some other way. Many times they are prohibited to watch television for some time or use the computer. All the girls attend school. Many of them are lagging behind in their studies because of earlier problems with their families. Two girls are studying at the university (interior design and economics). Almost everybody else still goes to primary school, including a 14-year-old. The older girls have more freedom; for example, they can go see their friends outside the house. Because the orphanage doesn’t have a lot of money, some of the older ones work on the weekends, in order to have some pocket money.

The orphanage relies on the fact that they can trust the girls. If a girl escapes, she can’t come back. That’s why the girls who stay there normally don’t escape. Many times there are problems with girls, who don’t want to obey the rules, but they have to speak with the director and in her room they normally come up with a solution. There are some rules that everybody has to obey and all the adults working there cooperate with the upbringing of the girls like in a big family. With a mixture of love and punishment (never physical) they try to raise the girls in conformity with the goals of Hogares Providencia that are raising them to be independent, confident, well-bred individuals. As I see it, it works as good as it can.

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