27 September 2019

Andrés Bello Catholic University aids socially disadvantaged communities through 'Social Park' and health center service

The maxim that identifies the Andrés Bello Catholic University (Venezuela) throughout its almost 66 years of history is "In everything to love and serve". For the university, these words are a substantive function and a seal of its humanity-focused academic structure that allows for future alumni to be sensitized to their surrounding environments. 

At UCAB, social extension is understood as the permanent relationship established between the institution and surrounding communities. By dedicating efforts and resources with the purpose of influencing the processes of social transformation, USAB creates alliances to achieve the objectives of development that benefit communities and their members, which is in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 17: Partnerships for the Goals.

The core center of the social extension activities of UCAB is Father Manuel Aguirre S.J. Social Park, whose doors have remained open uninterruptedly since September 1999, serving as a bridge for communication between surrounding communities and the university, as well as a platform for UCAB’s social commitment. Moisés Carvallo, General Director of Social Extension of UCAB, explains, “the idea is to unify criteria, contribution and work hand in hand with the community. The Social Park allows the university to get to the communities with all its will and capacity, and to build solution with the community for the community”.

Social Park offers socially disadvantaged communities a series of services that include community organization; human resources training programmes; education for children and young people out of school; legal, clinic, economic and accounting advice; environmental sustainability advice; psychological guidance and promotion of health. The service offered by students, professors and professionals voluntarily in Social Park is oriented towards seeking to reduce inequalities (SDG 10) and to collaborate for the development of sustainable communities (SDG 11).

“We seek to carry out activities that can lead to community empowerment. The idea is that the communities will be actively linked, assuming leadership and taking initiatives,” describes Adle Hernández, Director of Projection and Community Relations at UCAB.

Santa Inés Health Center is part of Social Park. Under an ambulatory model, it offers for free or at very low cost, diagnostic services, laboratory, imaging, rehabilitation and preventive and curative medical care in 14 different medical specialties. Advancing SDG 3 Good Health and Well-being, this health center serves patients who cannot afford the high costs of private health services due to their disadvantaged condition or social exclusion. 

Students and members of the neighboring communities expressed their appreciation for the service provided by the health center, as well as its attentive staff, clean facilities and affordable price. “Thanks to UCAB, people who live in the social disadvantaged communities can receive high-quality health service at very low prices," said Nadia Mardini, member of the Catia Community.

As a result of the work of Social Park and its collaboration with 160 allied institutions, UCAB has carried out 50 programmes and projects aimed at helping socially disadvantaged communities in 17 parishes in Caracas. The active participation of over 2,600 students under the guidance of these institutions directly benefited almost 60,000 people every year.