FOC (Foundation for Community Organizing)
The FOC integrates political organizing, peoples education, public health, and services for street kids. Founded in 1980, it first trained poor women in public health and sexuality, and now more than 3000 women work in the program. Several years ago, FOC decided to work with kids.
In the 1990s, during the years of hyper-inflation, the FOC searched for small businesses that might allow it to survive. It created day care centers in which poor women would work as teachers for neighborhood children. Children were prepared for public schools, mothers learned the value of education, and women earned a good salary. Soon this work expanded to work with adolescents -- particularly around drugs and sexuality.
Today, FOC trains 600 youth (all poor, at-risk, or on the street) as peer educators. The teens travel through their neighborhoods, teaching about health, drugs, gender, and the environment. They also organize sports leagues and recreation for younger kids. Perhaps most important, these kids mentor younger children, trying to help them make the decisions that keep them off the street and away from drugs. Many of the peer educators were on the street or were addicts, and they dont want other kids to suffer as they suffered.
The coaches at FOC try to transfer the intellectual tools through which the youth becomes resilient. They also facilitate relations between kids and community leaders, making sure that the kids have space in which to work.
Now, FOC dreams of a program to leverage underused resources. Many high schools have computer rooms, empty in the evening and at night. Many programmers have offered to work as volunteers. Kids want computer classes, and their parents dont want them in the street. When it gets the money, FOC will coordinate these resources to give computer classes to at-risk kids.
Violence is a huge concern for FOC and its peer educators. Low level violence is constant in schools, from bullying to knife-fights, and violence on the street is exploding. In suburban neighborhoods, suicide rates are immense (unheard of in Latin America), and in recent years there has been a wave of violence against teachers. Recent government research suggests that violence has reached Colombia-like levels.
In response to this violence, FOC trains teachers in conflict resolution and democratic classroom management. Teachers learn to see their students as individuals, not as recepticles of knowledge. This work occurs in collaboration with Red Sol.
FOC also runs a film program in which kids learn to write scripts, to film, to edit, and to act in movies. The program also gives them the tools to critique their own lives, through the camera, and to critque film, through their own lives. FOC believes that mass culture can have a terrible impact on kids, from movie violence to music and shock-television (Survivor rip-offs are in fashion in Argentina).