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Social Service Worker Spotlight: A Q&A with Edgar Danilo López Ramírez, Specialist in Family and Community Strengthening with Changing the Way We Care

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1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I live in Chiquimula, Guatemala. I am married and have three beautiful children, two boys and one girl. I really enjoy spending time with my family, going on walks in the countryside and spending time with friends. I also enjoy reading books to help me grow as a person.

2. Tell us about the community or area where you work. What are the main issues or problems the community faces?

I currently work in the municipalities of Zacapa, Río Hondo and Usumatlán in the Zacapa region of Guatemala. I coordinate with municipal and community authorities to establish support networks, involving community leaders and local authorities, focused on promoting family care and protecting children and adolescents from unnecessary family separation. 

In the time that I have been part of “Changing the Way We Care” and with my previous experience in this area of work, I have noticed an absence of social actors working to protect families, despite the noticeable socioeconomic conditions making them vulnerable and the exposure of adolescents to risk factors that may affect their personal development.

I believe that local authorities and governments can do much more to strengthen families by facilitating access to services and improving their living conditions, thus reducing the risk of unnecessary family separation.

Three children’s shelters (known as protection homes) operate in the area where I work, with whom we maintain close coordination in order to promote the reunification of the children from the shelters with their families.

3. How long have you been working in this profession and what motivated you to train as a social worker, psychologist, or another profession that provides social care?

In February 2005, I began to work on social issues, providing support to families vulnerable to food insecurity, paying special attention to families with children under five years of age.

I decided to study social work, realizing that it is a profession that contributes to the wellbeing of families, especially those that reside in rural areas.

4. What type of professional training did you receive? 

At a technical level, I received training at the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala in community development management. This included training on managing comprehensive community development processes, with an emphasis on social development.

At the undergraduate level, I studied at the Universidad de Rafael Landívar, graduating with a degree in social work with an emphasis on development management. Although my two areas of study were different, the approach was similar, both focusing on directing, coordinating and leading development processes for Guatemala

5. Please describe the work you currently do and the main functions of your role.

My main roles are to carry out institutional coordination, to promote the strengthening of the protection system for families and communities, and to prevent unnecessary family separation. I create support networks for children and adolescents at the community, municipal and departmental levels, involving and empowering authorities and community and municipal leaders. I also carry out procedures that promote the economic development of families at risk of unnecessary separation.

 6.  What aspects of your current job or role do you like the most?

In general, I find all of my work interesting, and I enjoy all aspects of it because it is all focused on building a better reality for families and for society in general. But I most enjoy my work that involves establishing agreements that ensure a better protection system for children and adolescents.

7.  What are the main challenges you face in your current role and how do you work to resolve them?

I believe that one of the greatest challenges is to achieve a common goal among the different actors involved in child protection, because everyone has different objectives in their roles. But by raising awareness about the importance and benefits of the work, a common goal can be achieved, and changes can be made in the different communities, municipalities and government departments.

8.  Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

My work is a blessing from God, because I do the work that I enjoy, and I receive a salary. My job is also a way to serve families and create better living conditions for children and adolescents. I hope that in the short and medium term the Changing the Way We Care program can expand its coverage area to increase the number of families who benefit from its services.