Kaya Children International

The mission of Kaya Children International is to address the unique needs of street children in Bolivia and around the world through direct service, research and advocacy.
Jul 15, 2014

Double Your Impact to Kaya

It is summer in the States, but here in Bolivia it is winter and it is cold. It is a critical time for us to ensure that our programs remain open and the children have a safe and warm place to be throughout these winter months. These next couple of months are particularly challenging for us because this is the season when donations are down. We currently provide for over 75 children in Kaya’s prevention program every Monday through Friday. Each of these children are on the brink of homelessness and depend on the Kaya Center for academic assistance, emotional support, and nutritious meals. Without your financial support, we cannot provide programs like the Kaya Center to provide that safe, nurturing environment that helps keep children off the streets.
 
The commitment of our staff here in Bolivia inspires me daily and their faithfulness to the children and the work we do has become incredibly evident as we navigate through financially challenging times. Our staff has committed to giving one month of their salary as a donation to Kaya, giving what they are referring to as a “mustard seed” in faith, believing that God will multiply the fruit of their sacrifice. We believe that God is providing and are excited to announce the first fruits in the form of a Summer 2014 Matching Challenge. Kaya has a small group of generous donors who have agreed to a matching gift of $25,000. That means that any donation you give to Kaya by August 31st will be doubled, ensuring that all of our Kaya programs here in Bolivia will continue to be sustained during these critical months.
 
Will you join the Bolivia staff and give sacrificially? Please make a donation today and help the children and staff through their winter while we enjoy this summer.
Jul 15, 2014

The Gift of Perspective

Every now and then one is gifted with an experience that expands one’s perspective and changes just a little bit the way the world appears. My recent trip to La Paz to visit Kaya was one such experience for me. My wife Amanda and I spent a week in La Paz, seeing the city and soaking in the wonderful work that the Kaya staff are doing. Led by the Program Director in La Paz, Ximena Alarcon, and Kaya Board Chair, John Eggen, throughout the course of the week we were able to see and experience the range of work carried out by Kaya.
 
Two experiences from this week in particular sat deeply with me and led to greater reflection: spending time with the boys in the residential homes and visiting the streets of El Alto, where many of the homeless children served by Kaya originate.
 
 
After some time acclimating to the city and visiting the Kaya Center, we paid two visits to the residential homes for boys. Overlooking La Paz from the outskirts, here the boys are able to experience not only shelter and security, but also the nourishment that comes from family life. Immediately upon our arrival I was moved by the sense of comfort and peace that was evident among the boys. From the simple ways they laughed at the lunch table, played outside for hours, or proudly showed us around the houses, it was clear that this isn’t just a residence for these boys, it is home. Here they are given not only shelter and security, but also guidance from the family in residence and new “brothers” to grow up and develop with, in many ways like siblings.
 
 
 
             The Kaya boys’ homes                             The boys playing soccer
 
 
The results of this support over time were exemplified in a Kaya graduation ceremony one night following a visit to the boys’ homes. Cesar, now in his early twenties, left the streets eight years ago to live with Kaya in the Residential Program. Kaya supported him as he matured, completed school, attended university, and recently secured a position as a consultant with a major international firm. During the graduation ceremony stories were shared from his teenage years to the present, and he was given an emotional sendoff by the staff. All of the other boys were in attendance, and Ximena told them that she looks forward to one day having this ceremony for each of them.
 
 
Cesar (in the checkered shirt) at his graduation
 
 
On the Streets of El Alto
 
The other poignant experience of the trip for me was time spent on the streets of El Alto. Positioned high on a plateau overlooking La Paz, El Alto is both more populous and more chaotic. Here there are two million generally poor people squeezed into a small space with very little government oversight, resulting in high crime, drug use, and prostitution. This is also where many of the homeless children either begin living on the streets or eventually end up.
 
We visited El Alto twice, once during the day and again during the middle of the night. During both visits, we looped through the city checking the places where homeless children tend to take shelter. During our first trip in the daytime, after stopping at a few places we visited an arcade that is popular among the children. Just outside, sitting under a vendor’s counter, were two young homeless girls.
 
The girls were crouched down with their knees pulled up looking sullen. Both were dirty and disheveled but otherwise could have been any other young girls. Compared to other experiences with homeless children, these girls struck me as looking particularly sad and vulnerable. Everything about them, from their messed-up hair to their bent-over posture, seemed to convey hopelessness. What the details of their lives are like, day to day out there on the street, I struggle to visualize.
 
 
 
A picture of the girls outside the arcade, taken discreetly by John Eggen
 
 
Our second visit to El Alto took place late at night. Once again we looped through the city, checking the popular shelter locations. After a little while we encountered a young girl named Josefin.
    
On one of the more crowded streets we saw a small figure curled up on the floor of an ATM booth. John approached with Carla, Kaya’s Outreach Lead, and quietly knocked on the door. At first she wouldn’t speak, but gently and persistently they coaxed out some words, including her name and age. She was thirteen, and she had been staying here for "a while" - this ATM booth was her spot at night. At one point she stepped out onto the street momentarily, and I was shocked by how small and thin she was - she looked more like eight than thirteen. The thought of someone so young and fragile out on that street every night alone gave me chills.
    
 
Josefin in her ATM shelter  
 
Reflecting on these experiences, I am struck by the contrast between the two encounters: on the one hand, the experience of the peace and joy of the boys’ homes and on the other, the harsh environment for these young girls on the streets. While Kaya does what it can to support girls like Josefin, it is currently unable to provide them with the safety, shelter and family support of a residential program. This contrast brought home to me the importance of developing such a Residential Program for Girls, so that Kaya can offer girls like these another alternative to life on the streets just as it does for so many boys, one in which they can be little girls again: have some peace and security, go to school and play, and make goals that they can hope to achieve.
Apr 28, 2014

A Transformation of a Child's Life

It’s a beautiful day in La Paz. The sun is shining brightly and the air is crisp. The Vision Team that has traveled from the States are with me, and as we walk from the hotel to the Kaya Center the team wonders what this day will bring. We turn the corner and hear the voices of children laughing and playing. The gates to the courtyard open and kids come running out, screaming with excitement, to see strangers who have traveled from afar, to visit, to play, to learn. While I’m observing all of the excitement around me I’m told to turn around, and as I do, I hear “Christina!” and running towards me, with the most beautiful smile across his face, is my Godson, Ysrael. I love this moment.

 

Nine years ago God crossed paths of two strangers from different countries. It was then that I met a young boy who had just recently left the streets. He had lived with other children, 9, 10, and 11-year-old boys, in an abandoned factory. They were forced to leave when the police came in and burned up all of their belongings.  It was then that this young boy took a chance to trust that someone would love, protect, and care for him.
 
He and I spent 10 short days together before I had to leave to go back home to the States. When I left, I knew God was calling me to play a larger role in this child’s life, but I wondered “what can I possibly do to make an impact in his life?” My husband and I agreed that we would become his child sponsors, but more importantly we committed to be consistent participants in his life.
 
Today, he is not a young boy, but a young man. He has high self- esteem, has been provided an education, an encouraging environment, a loving family at Kaya, and aspirations for his future. His smile, enthusiasm, and love for life are contagious.
 
As a child sponsor, I didn’t know what to expect, I only knew that I felt called. Our family played just a small role in a huge story, but it’s been a privilege to observe the transformation of a child’s life, and the grace God has covered him with.
 
Two years ago, my husband and I decided to once again join others as a sponsor for another child – this time, a girl at Kaya. I’ve had the honor of meeting her, and I know she is hurting inside. Again I wonder, “what can I possibly do to make an impact in her life?”  It is then that I draw on my belief that God has called on each one of us to help play a role in a child’s life, even if it is a small one. Please join me and help make a difference in a child’s life by giving today.
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