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Nov16FriGifts of Hope gives children in Argentina the chance to play. November 16, 2018 by Ruth Hobbis
(Above) Máximo (centre) and other children at the Salvation Army kids’ club in Buenos Aires, Argentina, have new toys thanks to support from the Canada and Bermuda Tty
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For 11-year-old Máximo, The Salvation Army’s Super Sábado (Super Saturday) program is more than just a kids’ club. As a child with autism, Máximo often struggles to understand social situations and non-verbal communication. Government caseworkers referred him to Super Sábado, believing that regular interaction with other children his age would have a positive impact on his development.
Twenty-five children between the ages of six and 12 currently attend the program, which is held at The Salvation Army’s Buenos Aires Central Corps in Argentina and run by corps officer Captain Valeria Nahuelfil and some of the corps’ youth members. In Buenos Aires, nearly 20 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line. The safe environment and affordable childcare that Super Sábado provides means a lot to parents in the community. This is especially true of families like Máximo’s, who must also cover the costs of developmental therapies and tuition for a specialized school.
Through generous donations to the Gifts of Hope ethical giving program, Captain Nahuelfil was able to purchase new toys, craft materials and equipment. “This project provided the elements we needed to continue working with the children,” says Captain Nahuelfil. “Not just entertaining them, but challenging their minds.” The new toys are already a big hit and have begun to attract new people to the corps each Saturday.
Although Máximo lives two hours away from the corps, his brother drives him to Super Sábado every other week where he joins children from the community to play games, make crafts, enjoy snacks and listen to Bible stories. It is a place where they can make friends, express themselves and begin a relationship with Jesus. Those who show interest in the spiritual component of the program are also invited to attend the corps’ services, Sunday school and youth group.
The Salvation Army in Buenos Aires has a strong partnership with other children’s programs that use the corps facilities, including the Army’s music school and a government-run play program called Juegoteca. Many of the children who come to Super Sábado also participate in these other programs, which occasionally join together for special projects and outings such as the “Right to Play Day” and “Street Games Summit.” By strengthening relationships between children, families, the program staff and wider community, Super Sábado seeks to teach children the value of respect.
“The relational component of this program is very important,” says Claudia Franchetti, projects and sponsorship officer for the South America East Territory. “Healthy relationships are the most favourable environment where behaviour changes may happen.”
Máximo loves the new toys that Captain Nahuelfil was able to purchase for the program. “He immediately turned to the trucks,” says Captain Nahuelfil. “We were so happy to see him playing and also relating to other kids as he played. We thank God for this huge blessing. We love to see their interest not to miss any of the activities. The parents tell us about their excitement to come!” To celebrate the donation, she organized a special afternoon of board games.
Our territory is privileged to support the South America East Territory by providing necessary funding to important ministries. Stories like this remind us that something as seemingly small as a few toys and games can have a large impact. In this case, helping vulnerable children develop socially and form healthy relationships with others. We are grateful to our Gifts of Hope donors, who allow us to support so many deserving ministries around the world. As more families join the Super Sábado program, we hope they continue to find it a place of warmth, community and fellowship.
Ruth Hobbis is the resource media co-ordinator for the world missions department.