An hour outside the bustle of Buenos Aires, an early morning haze blankets Tigre, a quiet neighborhood where hundreds of children are waking up hungry with little to eat.
Nearly a third of Argentina’s population lives in poverty. This corner of the country is far away from the prosperity of the capital city. But Tigre is home to a beacon of hope, Centro Conin – a nutrition and educational center battling child starvation and lifting families out of dire living conditions.
Beacon of hope
The center has become a lifeline for families in need. Starting before dawn, volunteers, nutritionists, social workers, teachers and pediatricians prepare for the crowds that come to Conin for meals, classes and activities.
Launched in 2012, Conin’s main focus has been serving malnourished children and children with developmental delays. Their mission has been to empower mothers and restore every child’s dignity, no matter their circumstances.
In Argentina, “child malnutrition is a big problem,” explained Pilar Rodriguez Caseres, a social worker at Conin. “This hunger is one of the most difficult sensations to explain. It’s an experience we need to work against, so that every child can develop and grow because they deserve to reach their full potential.”
One local mother, Gabriela, regularly attended the center with her daughter Elunae, who was born severely underweight. Conin was able to offer Gabriela’s family nutritional therapy and access to the right foods.
Young children are also enrolled at the center in a Montessori-style kindergarten class where they paint, learn to count with little black pebbles and discover the wonders of the world. Meanwhile, mothers often attend classes on nutrition and breastfeeding, as well as sewing, craftsmanship, theater and cooking workshops.
Access to technology
Before 2017, records of the children and parents that came through the doors were all kept on paper, begging to be disorganized, lost or ruined – Conin currently sees more than 50 families each week. Fast forward to today, the center is able to care for their visitors far more effectively than in the past, thanks to expanded access to technology.
Sonia, another local mother in Tigre, joined Conin’s program last year and had been visiting each day with her five-year-old son, Junior. As Junior grew older, Sonia noticed her son was struggling with developmental delays. Having him participate in the kindergarten class helped him come out of his shell and interact with other children. Rodriguez has been able to track Junior’s case using her laptop, tracking his progress and using it to find treatments.
The elimination of the laptop tariffs in Argentina changed how Conin operated – a change made possible through the work of Libertad y Progreso, a Buenos Aires-based nonprofit organization. The nonprofit worked with the government to eliminate a 35% tariff on computer imports that inflated local technology prices, and in Conin’s case, made access to such technology cost prohibitive.
When computers weren’t readily available for social service providers in the region, few kept records of diseases, treatments or even basic information about each child. “Children and mothers used to vanish from the health system,” said Conrado Etchebarne of Libertad y Progreso. Now Conin “keeps a detailed record on laptops and computers of the health and medical history of children and their mothers,” which allows families to “take care of themselves in the future.”
Centro Conin has become a safe haven for hundreds of these struggling mothers and their children, a place of hope in Tigre, where they are able to learn trades and skills that will help them find jobs while providing their children with the care and nutrition to grow healthy and strong.
To support causes like Centro Conin’s and other similar Dignity Unbound projects around the world, please visit https://dignityunbound.org/donate.