In the aftermath of the economic devastation caused by the Nicaraguan revolution and during the contra war, many families from the countryside moved to the cities, looking for opportunities. In León, the majority ended up living in the so called “poverty belt” with their children, the poorest neighbourhoods in the outskirts of the city. Some families started working and living on the dumpsite. To reach out to those children, Asociación Niñas y Niños del Fortín, or in short ANNF, was started up in 1995. Two years later, the team secured some land to build a center, where they have provided activities, food and educational support to the children and youngsters ever since, a project that was baptised “Niños del Fortín”.
ANNF officially became an NGO in 2001. They apply a human rights approach, specifically focused on the rights of all children to education and health.
2. Wonder Woman
Amalia Cuadra is the founder and director of ANNF. Since the start-up of the organisation, she has been absolutely dedicated to helping as many at-risk children, youngsters and families as possible. In 2001, she decided to start up a second project, “Chavaladas”, to be able to reach out to the children living on the streets of León as well.
3. Two can play that game
Not only does Asociación Niñas y Niños del Fortín run two centers, each with a multi-disciplinary team of educators, they also run two mobile school projects! The first team to start-up their mobile school project was the team of Chavaladas, in 2012. By organising outreach interventions with the mobile school, the educators build up a relationship of trust with the children and youngsters living on the streets, who are also invited to the center of Chavaladas to partake in the many activities organised there. The focus is on rebuilding the connections between the youngsters and their family members and on sparking their interest to participate in formal and non-formal educational activities.
In 2014, a second mobile school was transferred to ANNF, to be used by the team of Niños del Fortín. They reach out to the children and youngsters working on the dumpsite of León alongside their family members. Their main goal is making sure these children no longer have to work and can go to school instead, which is why they provide two meals a day, after-school support and many fun activities for the children and youngsters.
At the centers, the teams work with approximately 150 at-risk children and adolescents each year. Together, both teams have organised almost 1000 mobile school sessions since the start-up and have established close to 16000 positive contact moments on the streets.
4. What’s in a name
The association was named after the old municipal dumpsite, “El Fortín”, it’s raison d’être. The dumpsite was called “El Fortín” after the “Fortín del Acosasco” it used to be situated next to, a fortress where all opponents of the Somoza dictatorship were held and tortured in the 60s and 70s. Amalia decided to work with the girls and boys living and working on the dumpsite, the girls and boys “del Fortín”.
When starting up her second project “Chavaladas”, Amalia consciously decided not to refer to “street children” when naming it. “Chavalo” and “Chavala” are Nicaraguan slang terms used to affectionately refer to boys and girls, so the name “Chavaladas” in itself is already a clear demonstration of Amalia’s vision.
5. United we stand
ANNF cooperates with many national and international organsiations. They are also a member of CODENI, the Nicaraguan Federation of Non-Governmental Organizations Working with Children and Adolescents. CODENI is a coalition made up of 32 organisations that work to promote and defend the rights of Nicaraguan children.
6. Get your circus on
One of the international organisations the team cooperates with is Performers Without Borders. Each year, a team of international volunteers, having a big bag of circus tricks up their sleeves, work with the kids of both projects to prepare a circus show. The result is phenomenal, as you can see on the picture below.
7. Hike volcanoes. Help kids.
Quetzaltrekkers is one of the other organisations supporting ANNF. They organise adventurous volcano hikes in León and invest all profits into local organisations providing education to disadvantaged youth. Their volunteers also play soccer and baseball with the kids at Chavaladas every week.
8. Nicaragua Nicaraguita
Nicaragua has been facing a period of turmoil the past few years, affecting tourism and the Nicaraguan economy in general. In 2018, massive protests of Nicaraguan citizens against the government were met with a violent repressive approach of the government. More than 300 people were killed, over 2000 were injured and hundreds of people were arbitrarily arrested and detained, many of whom were subject to torture.
The crisis also greatly affected ANNF and our other Nicaraguan Mobile School partners, since their collaborations with many international partners were temporarily put on hold, which means less funds and less foreign volunteers to support the local teams of street educators.
What will happen the next couple of years remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure: Amalia and her two amazing, dedicated teams will keep doing everything in their power to keep their projects up and running, so they can continue to support the children and youngsters they work with.
Want to know more about the incredible work of Asociación Niñas y Niños del Fortín? Check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Proyecto-Chavaladas-396195313796553/