A father and daughter hold a children’s picture book while standing together in front of a green mural decorated with characters.

David says his five-year old daughter was shy before participating in Save the Children’s program, made possible by the Red Nose Day Fund. “Now she’s proactive,” says David. Photo credit: Save the Children

Red Noses Protect Children from Violence in El Salvador

Families in El Salvador participate in Save the Children’s program “Mitigating the Impact of Violence on Young Children.”

In an urban school in the department of San Miguel, 20 children and their caregivers are attentively participating in a Parenting Circle as part of Save the Children’s “Mitigating the Impact of Violence on Young Children” program, funded in 2017 by the Red Nose Day Fund. They sit in a classroom amid drawings of Mickey and Minnie Mouse on the walls and phrases from children's stories. Artwork by the kids and parents decorate the tables.

Today’s family talk is about types of hugs. María, the project facilitator, tells the children about the “infinite hug.” She allows the children to steer the conversation and ask questions. Five-year-old Erica* pipes up, “Are they for dad or for mom?” María answers that they are for the people she loves.

Beside Erica sits her father, David, who carefully combed his daughter’s hair and added two hairpins when they first entered the room. He is hopeful his daughter will defy San Rafael Oriente’s odds of low educational attainment, which disproportionately affect girls. He wants her to study English in the future, go to college and be a professional. “Erica has developed incredible skills,” he says. “She already knows the vowels, colors and the alphabet. She was shy before; now she’s proactive. This program helped me and my wife give her more quality time. We now spend an hour every day playing with her. She pretends she is a lawyer and my wife and I play at being judges.”

A father holds his son in his lap while the family sit on white chairs in front of a bright mural, decorated with story characters.

Don Santiago says Save the Children’s program has helped his family “because there is more love and more communication.” Photo credit: Save the Children

After the group participates in a dance, María’s team introduces the next activities. Parents stay inside for a discussion on resilience, while the children leave to participate in a drawing and painting workshop, except for one, Miguel*, age 2, the youngest child. He is smiling and playful, cradled in his father’s arms and feeding on a bottle. Don Santiago, his father, says, “My son’s character has improved. He now plays with his classmates and gets into fights less often. This program has helped us, along with his mother, because there is more love and more communication; we are very grateful. I now help her (my wife) out more often with Miguel. I want him to be a good man, far from violence,” he concludes.

“We lacked training for early childhood attention,” says the school principal. “This project helped both the children and caregivers grow. It has had a palpable impact on the parents; their involvement has been exceptional and proof of this is that we have many dads who come with their young kids when moms can't,” says Villegas.

Erica, stained with many colors after painting a ladybug and a whale, repeatedly runs back in to where her father is and says, “You have earned an infinite hug, Papa, for coming with me today!” Each time he responds by sweeping her up in his arms.

*Names changed for protection.

Learn more about Save the Children’s work to protect children in El Salvador.

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