20 years of FAI
By Alexa Fullerton and Sylvia Van Dijk, PhD
FAI (Fundación de Apoyo Infantil, Guanajuato, AC) is celebrating 20 years working with the children of our state in accordance with the International Convention of the Rights of the Child. FAI is a Children’s Rights (Human Rights) organization. Before FAI became the Fundación de Apoyo Infantil, Guanajuato, AC, Sylvia Van Dijk, PhD conducted a statewide study in partnership with the Secretary of Education of Guanajuato, then headed by Jose Trueba Davalos, PhD, under the auspices of Save the Children, Mexico, on the living conditions of children in our state.
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The most important outcomes of this study were (1) the lack of schools in smaller rural communities (ranchos) and the poor quality of public education. (2) The fact that teachers were not aware that the country of Mexico had signed the Convention of the Rights of the Child. (3) The communities in the north and northeast of Guanajuato were suffering from environmental devastation and not enough to eat (food security). The rural communities and especially the children were suffering from lack of food, disease and scarcity of water. (4) Children statewide were receiving violent physical discipline from parents and teachers. (5) Children in rural areas had no recreational opportunities because they began to herd domestic animals and housekeep from a very young age. (6) The Study Group got acquainted with CEDESA, a civil organization working with subsistence farmers to raise awareness about the importance of native vegetation, focusing on the mesquite tree, which was a sacred tree among indigenous populations in the area. Among other programs CEDESA trained farmers to become beekeepers (mesquite honey) in order to have a cash income. CEDESA had also organized communities to negotiate with local governments for potable water wells and school facilities.
As a result of this sociological study a group of prominent Mexicans statewide were invited to look at the results and to form a new non-governmental organization (NGO) to promote Children’s Rights in the State of Guanajuato.
In August 1992 the organization was legally constituted. Sylvia van Dijk became the founding director, a responsibility she took on until 2004. According to Mexican law an organization must work as a nonprofit for two years before receiving legal status as a federally registered and numbered tax-deductible organization. FAI has this official status in Mexico, Canada and the United States.