Quito, Ecuador—Students at Rutgers University, NJIT, and George Washington University have come together to help children from economically-struggling communities. The students—when they are not writing papers or studying for finals—manage the operations of Save the Children of the Developing World (SCDW), serving as officers, directors, committee members, or general advisors to improve the wellbeing of children living in developing countries, including Ecuador and Egypt, through various projects.
The organization was started in 2017 by Abanoub Armanious, then a Bayonne High School student and now a sophomore at Rutgers double majoring in Public Health and Cell Biology & Neuroscience with a minor in Religion. Armanious, a first-generation American and college student, founded the group after traveling to Egypt and Ecuador and observing the dire economic conditions and the lack of social safety nets. Since then, he has led SCDW in supporting many youth-oriented institutions like the Instituto de Investigación, Educación y Promoción Popular del Ecuador (INEPE), a school on the south side of Quito, Ecuador that educates underprivileged children at the levels of pre-school (newborns to 4 year olds), basic general education (5 to 14 year olds), and high school (15 to 17 year olds).
“I visited Ecuador to conduct college-accredited research and I saw children working arduous jobs when they should be in school or playing with their friends,” he said. “So, when I learned about INEPE’s mission and the amazing work they have done, I knew I had to utilize the organization’s resources to support them.”
SCDW first supported INEPE’s mission right before the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic in March 2020. Through its Project Educate—a program dedicated to promoting accessibility to quality education—SCDW helped finance INEPE’s Early Childhood Education workshops for 5 to 12 year olds used to improve the children's readiness in the sciences, humanities, and arts. For this academic year, INEPE had to transition to online learning, which posed many obstacles for educators, but for the students and their families, as well. After speaking with INEPE, SCDW’s Director of Programs Joshua Oconer, who is a first-generation Filipino-American attending Rutgers University, knew that SCDW had to provide the students with school supply kits.
“As a college student having to deal with online learning during the pandemic, I understand how difficult it is to stay motivated with the lack of in person communication, but this sort of situation worsens for students in developing countries where access to educational resources is very limited,” said Oconer.
Oconer then spearheaded a new Project Educate launch where 25 kits were provided to first and second graders and 30 kits were provided to students from third to seventh grade. The kits included paint, clay, cardboard, glue, markers, paper, compasses, and educational domino sets. After being packaged by INEPE employees, they were delivered in accordance to the country’s coronavirus preventative measures. INEPE’s Executive Director Patricio Raza Dávila expressed nothing but appreciation for SCDW’s support.
“In these painful and complex times for all humanity, the action of the young people of SCDW constitutes a horizon of hope that deepens solidarity between peoples and generates concrete alternatives for children and adolescents who belong to vulnerable sectors. INEPE is grateful for having started this relationship that strengthens the social and educational work that we promote through the different areas of our community-based organization,” Dávila said.
SCDW hopes to continue supporting INEPE and other educational institutions not only within Ecuador, but also in Egypt and the rest of the developing world. Doing so, however, requires the support of members of the general public. So, they urge communities to get involved by donating, creating student chapters, and holding fundraisers and donation drives.
About Save the Children of the Developing World (SCDW): SCDW is a NJ Nonprofit Corporation based in Bayonne, New Jersey and managed by a group of college students who are dedicated to improving the wellbeing of children living in third-world countries by providing them with the tools to pursue their interests and become the person they dream to be. They have been ranked Platinum on Guidestar—a nonprofit information service—for being transparent on their different projects and how they have worked towards fulfilling their mission.