Sylvia Reyes

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2007


This profile was prepared when Sylvia Reyes was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007.
The New Idea
Sylvia is changing the future for child street workers. Many of these children live with violence and psychological abuse in their families, are out of school, and are vulnerable to dangerous behavior such as gang involvement and living on the streets. Sylvia focuses not only on the children, but also on their parents. Because their parents, many children are in downward spirals—parents past traumas may distort their relationships with their children; making them unable to provide basic physical or emotional care. Sylvia’s critical insight is the importance of the tenor of the family context as a powerful tool to solve the problems previously associated with extreme social exclusion. By helping families to become genuine spaces of care, the chances of children inevitably repeating the parenting they have experienced is interrupted—with this transformation in the family becoming a transformation for generations to come.

Sylvia ends entrenched cycles by using trained “key” workers to intervene with families, both children and parents. Parents become able to link their experiences of past traumas to their current parenting of their children. The workers then lead families through a process to recreate bonds and to learn to work together toward their future. By the time families’ graduate from her program, they have eliminated or greatly reduced violence, children are off the streets and integrated into mainstream schools, and for the first time parents have the capacity and wherewithal to support their children financially and make use of available local services such as healthcare.

By creating permanent change within families through an intensive but effective process, Sylvia offers a new perspective to government and citizen sector programs, with policies for dealing with vulnerable children, domestic violence, and family health. While Sylvia is replicating her methodology through citizen organizations in several countries, her goal is to shift policy and funding allocation so that long-term investment in the family becomes recognized as a primary component in the societal response to vulnerable children.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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