The Achumani Market is a place where you can buy just about anything; meat & vegetables, toys, school supplies and so much more. At the market you will also find a group of children that spend their days working by guarding cars. When someone parks, the children approach the driver and ask, “I will watch your car for you?” This means while people are shopping their cars are being protected. When done, the kids are tipped a peso or two (20 or 40 cents). Jose is part of this group of children.
Jose has 9 brothers and sisters and learned at a young age that if he wanted to survive he was going to have to provide for himself. Jose’s family lives in extreme poverty, and he has never had a stable place to call home. At 4 years old, Jose’s cousin started taking him to the Achumani Market to occupy his days and make money for food. At the Achumani Market, Jose was often bullied by the older children, and over the years he learned to do the same to the younger children who were new to the streets. At 10 years old, Jose was having a hard time at school and wasn’t receiving the support he needed so he stopped attending.
The Achumani Market is one of the places that Kaya does street outreach, and this is where our social workers met Jose. When we met Jose, he had already spent many years without supervision. We would visit Jose and spend time listening and learning about him, hoping to develop his trust. In time he accepted our invitation to come to the Kaya Center, a day program to help at risk children and youth. He had already missed several months of school, but we were able to re-enroll him in school while also providing the extra educational support to get him caught up with his class.
Jose lives on the outskirts of town and the school system doesn’t provide any transportation. Jose was left with the responsibility to pay for public transportation to and from school himself, which he could not afford. At Kaya we are able to provide transportation for Jose each day, we pick him up at his house in our mini-van each morning and drop him off at school. Since Bolivia has a half-day school system, Jose spends the rest of the day at the Kaya Center.
At first Jose struggled at the Kaya Center. He had never experienced boundaries and for the first time it was expected that he complete his schoolwork. There were days when Jose was very defiant and refused to listen to anyone. However the staff at Kaya was very patient. In time Jose got used to coming to Kaya and learned what was expected of him and his behavior started to improve.
Although Jose is still a very active, rambunctious child, a year and a half later, the transformation in Jose is remarkable. Each morning he waits enthusiastically for the Kaya mini-van and is able to attend school regularly. He participates in the activities at the Kaya Center and follows rules. Kaya provides Jose with a nutritious meal each weekday relieving the heavy burden of not knowing when his next meal will be.
We met Jose at a very critical point in his life. Many kids who spend a lot of their time on the streets enter into consumption around this age. The Kaya Center provides a safe alternative to the streets and both academic and emotional support for Jose. Instead of working, Jose is able to play and interact with his peers.
By giving to Kaya Children, you are helping to sustain the Kaya Center and restore childhood to children like Jose…one child at a time.