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Proyecto Cristal is a former squatters' settlement that was cleared out and then sold back in parcels to the inhabitants who could pay for the property.  The people are primarily recent Nicaraguan immigrants who have come to Costa Rica in search of jobs and a better life, and they tend to work as housekeepers, construction workers and coffee pickers for about US$10 per day.  While this would be considered a good wage in most of Central America, the cost of living in Costa Rica is fairly high in comparison to that in neighboring countries.  This means there is little room for saving or mistakes.  In general, the parents of the children in Proyecto Cristal are literate, but many have at most a third-grade education.  Some have never had any kind of formal education.
 
Children in Proyecto Cristal go to their nearby state school either in the morning or the afternoon, and they are usually home alone for the remainder of the day. An older cousin or sibling may be around to watch them, but the television often plays the role of baby-sitter.  In the after-school program, children are tutored in academic subjects, encouraged to explore literature through reading, drama, and storytelling, and develop artistic expression through structured projects and imaginative play.  They also have access to a library, which is the only one in their community.  One of the tangible results of this program has been the successful scores on grade-level exams and the advancement of the children in school grades, some of whom had been held back for two or three years at a single elementary school grade level.
 
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