The foundation started as an initiative to bring a solution to a social problem that the youth of the area of Sabana Basora Noord was experiencing. As he realized how violence was growing, he decided to get to work, and instead of remaining as part of the problem, Rafael decided to do something positive to help the kids in the neighborhood, and to save them as much as possible from the violence which abounded around them at that time.
Instead of leaving the solution in other people’s hands and waiting for the kids to get help, Rafael felt the need and responsibility to help these kids. “I also have children, and once you see that the future of these kids is being lost, you think also about your own children”, Rafael says, adding that he assumed this responsibility with ease. “This community, we all live in it and that means that what’s positive for the neighborhood benefits all those who live in it. When you live in a safe neighborhood, you have a family who also feels safe.”
The initiative brought a solution to the neighborhood, but initially it was not well received by the neighbors. However, once the residents of the neighborhood started noticing the good work and good results of the projects and activities which Rafael was executing, which cause there to be less fighting, less stealing, less drugs compared to before, they started giving their support and started believing in the work Rafael was doing.
Fundacion Centro Familiar Sabana Basora – Family Center Sabana Basora Foundation – was established thanks to the feeling of responsibility that Rafael took into his own hands, to the love he feels for his neighborhood and the youth who live in it. “It is something that we ourselves didn’t expect”, Rafael commented. Once he started working with the neighborhood youths, he carried out a social study in order to find out the reason why the youth were getting out of hand in the neighborhood. He realized that from the time they were very young, they were influenced by their family and their parents – “you have to remember that this is a neighborhood where you find mothers with three or four kids who don’t have their fathers at home, which means the mothers alone are carrying this responsibility. It’s a difficult job for a single mom.” So he realized this was the root of the problem. Rafael, together with his family and neighborhood volunteers, came up with different projects in order to strengthen the existing work for the youth. At this point it was decided to engage the parents and small children as well, who also were part of the environment surrounding the youth.
This work became easy, because there was already a foundation thanks to the work that Rafael was already doing in the neighborhood, work that kept growing until it became the foundation that received acceptance from the neighborhood, from the parents, and the participation of the kids in their various activities. However, this also resulted in a lot more expenses, and more needed to be invested in the projects they were trying to carry out. Because of this, “it got to the point that we couldn’t come up with the funds like we used to at first. We had about 40 kids, maybe more, who we were providing with food, drink, almost every day we had activities for them”, Rafael says.
The financial weight became bigger, and the foundation had to start knocking on the doors of other agencies that received the foundation with open arms and provided a lot of help. The financial weight became more manageable, and the help gave the opportunity to invest more in projects for the kids; at the same time it gave the foundation financial stability and strength to continue bringing new and wider-reaching projects.
The strength and financial stability helped keep an integral part of the work that the foundation does in the neighborhood. Through a social study carried out in the neighborhood, they also discovered that one of the biggest problems is the financial force of these families. “You have mothers or parents who cannot afford childcare for their kids after school, for example, or who cannot provide the support that the children need for optimal education.” As an effort to solve this, and at least provide some relief to the parents, Rafael decided to carry this responsibility on the shoulders of his foundation, and made this a non-profit, meaning that the kids receive all the help for free. “This way we can facilitate and make the quality of life more flexible for our kids, and for the parents as well.”
Rafael had a dream to have as many of the neighborhood kids as possible in a safe and healthy environment, where they could come after school. “A lot of times the kids would leave school, come home and there wasn’t a plate of food waiting for them.” A lot of times, the lack of parental control meant the kids were on the streets.
This dream became a reality when the foundation was able to offer child care after school without any cost. Here the kids come after school and receive warm food, help with their homework, and they can partake in various activities after they finish their homework. “This is one of the biggest and more beautiful projects that we’ve been doing for more than a year”, Rafael expressed.
This foundation is transmitting a beautiful message, where we can see the big help that we can give to our island, to our communities, when instead of standing aside, we all give a bit of ourselves and join our forces, so that we can bring solutions and help to our youth and our communities. “If each of us contributes and join forces to help, no matter who we are talking about, we can help our youth to grown in a healthy way, physically, socially and culturally”, Rafael finished.