Building a Better Life for Children in Foster Care
Lorena Vidal (second from right to left) and Marcelo Lucero (fifth from right to left) with a group of volunteers and special guests from AIEP during the inauguration of the project.
In 2017, AIEP faculty members Lorena Vidal and Marcelo Lucero coordinated a community service project to remodel a foster home with the help of students of the AIEP School of Construction & Engineering. Today, the Juntos por la Infancia program is refurbishing 11 children’s homes in 10 different regions across Chile.
As educators, Lorena Vidal and Marcelo Lucero believe in the power of education to transform communities. Turning this belief into action, in 2017 they organized a community service project in benefit of the Pablo VI Children’s Home in the city of San Felipe, located 50 miles north of Santiago. Pablo VI is home to over 40 children and youth ages 4-18 who have been separated from their own families to protect their rights. Lorena and Marcelo led a team of over 150 AIEP volunteer engineering students and faculty to improve the home’s infrastructure, fixing the roof and electrical system, painting and changing doors, installing new drinking water facilities, and repairing access roads. The team also developed emergency and risk-prevention plans for the home.
This project evolved into Juntos por la Infancia, and today, with the continued support of AIEP volunteers and local businesses, the project is replicating the same model in 11 other foster homes across 10 different regions in Chile.
“The project began with a simple idea. We thought that if we were helping to change the future of adults through education, we could also contribute to improving the future of children in our own communities,”says Lorena.
A key aspect of the project is to involve as many community stakeholders as possible, including local businesses, media outlets, and government to create maximum impact. The project not only benefits the children staying in the house, but also the workers and volunteers of the María de Luz Foundation, the organization that manages the foster homes.
“The true value of education is helping students become better people and community members,” says Marcelo, who comes from a family of educators with a tradition of helping others and serving the community. “Students often get caught up in their daily responsibilities, but through the hands-on approach of the project we expose them to new realities, helping them see the essence of social responsibility as part of their chosen career.”
The vision of Lorena and Marcelo is to replicate this initiative across the 24 communities that AIEP serves in Chile. “As faculty members, our challenge is to change lives. We have in our hands the future of those who will decide the future of Chile and so it is our duty as educators to foster the value of solidarity to achieve a more just and equitable society,” he commented.