What is CENIT

The Integrated Childhood and Adolescence Center, CENIT, is a non-profit organization with 25 years of experience developing strategies and integrated programs to serve at-risk and vulnerable girls, boys and adolescents, with the aim of eradicating child labour, promoting their rights, and improving their living conditions.

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CENIT provides integrated educational, vocational, health, social and psychological services tailored to the needs of the community, with a particular focus on supporting and empowering girls and young women. CENIT offers a primary and high school, a drop-in tutoring center, a street outreach program, an adult education program and health services.


Our mission is to create integrated educational and productive programs that are efficient in the long term, with a solid organizational structure involving the public and private sectors, and national and foreign volunteers. All these resources are coordinated and focused on eradicating child labour, offering new alternatives and improving their opportunities and living conditions and those of their families who are in vulnerable situations and at-risk.


To be an organization serving children and adolescent workers and their families, that is recognized and positioned on the national and international levels, as the first in integrated services, expanding its programs nationwide with the support of public and private institutions, and with trained, proactive and innovative personnel as well as domestic and foreign volunteers.

Who Started and Who Runs CENIT?

In 1983, Sister Maria Augusta Arellano had a dream of traveling to distant lands to care for vulnerable and orphan girls. Although her initial intention was to open a shelter for girls, Sister Arellano realized the need to aid and attend to the thousands of working girl in the Chiriyacu – Camal market and the surrounding areas in Southern Quito. In 1986, Centro de la Niña Trabajadora – CENIT was started as a project by Sister Arellano and the Congregation of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd with the purpose of providing refuge, care, and education, both social and spiritual, to working children, adolescents, and their families. Their motivation and slogan was “You can’t sleep peacefully while there is a girl in the street.” From 1983 – 1991, the Sisters made frequent visits and organized meetings for children and their families who worked within the Chiriyacu – Camal market.

On April 20, 1991, CENIT opened its doors on the streets of Huacho and Jose Peralta, where the organization is currently located. During the past 24 years, CENIT has expanded its program offerings and services thanks to the generosity of local and foreign volunteers and charitable organizations that have helped finance the wages and scholarships and most importantly, provided love and care to each and every person who forms part of the CENIT community. In 2015, CENIT officially changed its name to Centro Integral de la Niñez y Adolescencia (Integrated Childhood and Adolescence Center), which reflects the organization´s expansion of services to help working boys, adolescents, and families in vulnerable situations.


Who Are Working Children and adolescents?

Child Labour is defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential, and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. Working children and adolescents are under the age of 18 and found in public spaces carrying out profitable activities or begging, either alone or in the company of adults. In Quito, child and adolescent workers generally work as street vendors (selling vegetables, fruits, or candy), shoe shiners, entertainers, and general laborers. Many children start out by accompanying their mother in the markets, but by age 4 or 5 children become more independent and work alone or in small groups with other children.

Why Are There Working Children and adolescents in Ecuador?

Certain economic and social factors have made the problem of working children more prevalent in Ecuador since the 1980s, provoked by the debt crisis and urban migration. Many are the children of poor parents from the countryside who have migrated to the cities to look for work and opportunities. In recent years the Ecuadorian government has made eradication of child labour a priority, creating laws and dedicating resources towards that end. Great strides have been made, but the country still has a long way to go.


What Problems Do Working Children and Adolescents Face?

Because working children and adolescents spend most of their time on the street, they are much more vulnerable than non-working children to sexual and physical assaults, gang pressure, temptation to steal, prostitution, drug addiction, and health problems (scabies and lice, malnutrition, parasites, sleep deprivation and environment stresses). Additionally, many working children and adolescents have not received the mental stimulation to be at the same level of intellectual development as their non-working peers. Many of the children do such mundane, repetitive jobs (such as peeling potatoes), that they have not even developed proper motor skills. Maltreatment and physical, sexual, and emotional abuse are prevalent within families. The high incidence of alcoholism magnifies these problems. Although attitudes are changing, many families still put work above education because of the extra costs and lost income. For a family that counts pennies in order to survive, sacrificing part of their annual income for education is not a possibility.

Does CENIT allow their children to continue working, and why?

In many cases, education is secondary to work. For this reason, many parents will not even discuss education with us if it means that their children cannot continue to work. We believe that it is better that the child work part-time and also go to school, than not study at all. As a result of the participation of the children and adolescents in our programs, there is a decrease in the amount of hours each child and adolescent works.