Over the last dozen years, the number of organizations serving street children in Latin America has exploded and the quality of their services has improved dramatically. However, most of these programs have not developed their fundraising skills to correspond with their service innovations. They depend upon an uncertain patchwork of funders, on committed volunteers, and on unjustly underpaid staff. In the last five years, as European governments and foundations have redirected their grants toward Africa and Eastern Europe, a funding crisis has struck many organizations that serve street children.
The positive consequence of this funding crisis is that Latin American non-governmental organizations are extremely cost-effective, with a remarkably low cost-per-client. Limited funding also means that these organizations have been extremely innovative, leveraging community, university, and youth resources into powerful solutions. The idea of protagonismo, or the personal agency of young people and their communities, emerged from the need to provide services at a low cost, and this idea has come to the center of Latin American civil society.
Unfortunately, though limited budgets may be the mother of invention, they limit social service agencies to serving only a small percentage of children that live, beg, work, or prostitute on the street. With economic collapses in Venezuela, Argentina, Uruguay, Perú, Ecuador, and to a lesser extent in Colombia and Central America, financial resources are stretched beyond the breaking point.
Institutional and individual donors always seek innovative, cost-effective, model programs; projects fit this description in almost every Latin American country. Unfortunately, finding these ground-breaking, community-based organization requires immense legwork -- it took Shine a light over three years to compile the research you will read on this website. We visited almost 250 organizations in 49 cities, interviewed their staff, evaluated their work, and read the results of their research. We hope that this effort can create a shortcut for foundations and individual donors, allowing them to find the projects that they wish to support, but without the suffering necessary to sort through Latin American civil society.
This website provides an array of resources for foundations and other donors. Through the following links, you can
- Research the lives of children on the street and in the slums of Latin American cities
- Learn about the philosophical background of social services in Latin America
- Sort organizations by geographical location
- Find organizations that serve street children in a number of fields, from street education to community development and from gender issue to dance
- Read about the best practices Latin American NGOs
- See the ways in which Shine a light projects promote best practices and internacionalize local solutions.
- Research the conditions of life on the street in a dozen countries, and learn from the experiences of activists in those countries.
- Find researchers with experise in the fields that interest you.
- In collaboration with researchers, Shine a Light publishes "Essays to Understand the Street", a monograph series on the issues that are most important to children living on the street and the organizations that serve them. These essays attempt to bridge the gap between academic researchers and grass-roots social service agencies.
Should you have any further questions, or if we can help your work in any way, we invite you to write SAL Executive Director Kurt G. Shaw.