* Written by Joanna Loeber, winner of the ALAS-IDB Award for Best Publication
The ALAS-IDB Awards are an incentive to cultivate smiles in early childhood
On a planet where crises have become almost constant occurrences, nothing compares to the honest and selfless smile of a child to spread hope and happiness. Children possess the ability to change the world and turn darkness into an explosion of color and dreams with a force as powerful as that of the sea. In order to reach that goal, however,it is fundamental that there exists a balance between a good education, health, and, even more importantly, the child´s emotional space.
We have all faced circumstances we dislike and that have made feel uneasy. Timo, the “Grandulón Tristón,” is my strategic partner to bring parents, teachers, and caretakers on board in an effort to work on self-esteem and prevent depression in the youngest members of our societies. Together we can help children understand that everybody makes mistakes and that the things that make us different are precisely the qualities that make us unique and special. Timo is the main character in the first volume of the PASMI collection, a series of psycho-pedagogical stories for children used as playful tools to identify and prevent the abuse of minors.
Sadly, it is estimated that one out of four children suffers or has suffered from some type of abuse by the time he or she reaches adolescence and that the majority of these cases occur between the ages of 5 and 15. Moreover, it is estimated that 70% of abuse cases are not reported. Without a doubt, this reality urgently needs to be transformed. What kind of hope can the adults of tomorrow have if they lose their essence and love because of suffering? That’s not the bright future that we want our children to have. Nevertheless, a light at the end of the tunnel exists: we have in our own hands the potential to prevent abuse. Dedicating quality time to our children, engaging them to talk about their daily lives, and positively stimulating their self-esteem from early childhood are simple tasks that can make a significant difference.
As I became motivated in advocating for change, I took a chance and laid the foundation for making PASMI a reality. I can say from the bottom of my heart that nothing inspires me more than the smile of a child. Luckily, the Inter-American Development Bank and the ALAS Foundation share my vision. When I realized the potential of the ALAS-IDB awards to help raise awareness in support of the children of all Latin America and the Caribbean, I couldn’t help but participating – not for the results, but because of the motivation it gave me bringing together my humble experiences with those of others, so that we together can make a tangible difference in early childhood development. As my own father would say, “the important thing is not the destination, but the journey.” Thus, what matters most is gaining experience, knowing that you are not alone and that no matter how small your idea might seem, it has the potential to contribute to a larger cause that deserves to be heard.
The process of reaching the top of the mountain was intense but beautiful: I grew during the process and learned what I could have never learned otherwise. Having won the ALAS-IDB award was a surprise and it fills me with great joy, because it represents an acknowledgement of the efforts of all people who work every day for a better world. Our voices are being heard and there is a beam of hope, which is shining brighter and brighter to illuminate the path that remains. Timo and I want to change the world – and you?
* In her publication El Grandulón Tristón, Joanna Loeber tells the story of a boy who is sad because he is different. This sweet and intelligent character is adopted, is big for his age, and has trouble focusing his attention. These conditions affect him emotionally and lead him on a journey of personal discovery.