As Kaya house parents, Franz and Griselda have the unique experience of seeing the children in the residential program grow day by day. They live and work in Kaya’s Renacer home, where they take care of 10 boys ranging from seven to 12 years old. The boys call them tio and tia, or “aunt and uncle.” Here the couple shares their experiences working with the Renacer boys—their challenges, their proud moments, and their hopes for the boys’ futures.
Twelve-year-old Beymar easily comes across as your typical adolescent boy. “Nada,” he'll reply when asked about his favorite subjects in school, before proceeding to list a mouthful: math, language, science, social studies, music. His face lights up as he emphasizes the last—he’d like to learn to play the drums someday. “Nada, Beymar? You listed practically every subject!” “I guess so,” he'll say.
Underneath this practiced indifference is a cautious attitude towards his academic accomplishments. Beymar is in fifth grade; he knows he is two years behind. But three years ago when he moved in to Kaya's Renacer house, Beymar hadn't yet learned how to read or write.
Before Kaya, Beymar lived with his parents, his mother working in kitchens and earning five bolivianos (about 70 cents) a day. Escalating family problems forced him and his siblings to move in with his aunt, until she could no longer care for them between her poor health and limited financial resources. Throughout this time, Beymar skipped school, sometimes for weeks at a time. At seven, he started hanging out on the streets with a group of older kids, sometimes stealing alongside them for money.
On his ninth birthday, Beymar’s life slowly began to change when he moved in to Kaya. At first he couldn't sleep at night. "I was scared; I would hear knocking on the window," he remembers. But with time, even those nights became surmountable. “The tios (Kaya house parents Franz and Griselda) stayed up and prayed with me. I’m not scared anymore because God has helped me."
Nighttime was one thing. During the day, Franz recalls, “Beymar used to challenge everything we said. He would say 'Why should I?' when we told him to do his homework. He was little, but he would hold his fists up and challenge me to fight.” In the past year, though, Franz has noticed Beymar’s changes: “Now we joke around and shadowbox with each other. Every day he runs to show us that he’s finished his homework before he goes outside to play.”
A stable home with Kaya helped Beymar overcome his night fears and get back on track at school, but he is especially proud of how he has changed his behavior. "Aaaaaantes!" he says of the time when he used to "escape" from school, and when he used to steal: in the past, in a different childhood. "Without Kaya," he reflects, "I would be on the street."
This past Christmas, the residents and tios of the Kaya houses gathered under one roof to celebrate with a traditional Bolivian dinner. When the tios asked if anyone would like to say a few words, Beymar stood up. Facing his Kaya family, he kept it brief, in typical Beymar fashion: "Thank you for helping me change." Beymar, thank you for letting us into your life.
In 2012, Kaya launched Warmi Kaya, (Warmi is Aymaran for woman), a program designed to serve mothers of street children, former street children and children at extreme high risk of entering street life. Warmi Kaya is now working with 7 women.
Angelica is one of the women participating in Warmi Kaya. She joined the program after her siblings became part of Kaya. Two of her younger brothers (ages 14 and 12) live in the residential program and a third brother is part of the Kaya Center. Angelica has two daughters, ages 3 and 1 years old. Neither father is involved.
When she joined the Warmi Kaya program, Angelica was considering moving to Cochabamba with a young man. Her original request to Kaya was to take her daughters so that they would be safe. The trip did not materialize. In conversation with her following this situation, Kaya strongly encouraged her to participate in the program to improve the likelihood of positive life outcomes for her children.
Angelica works as an assistant in the market and earns less than $3 a day. This leaves her family at extreme risk including low life expectancies, severe emotional vulnerability and intense financial needs. Until she joined Warmi Kaya, her daughters remained at home with her father which was clearly not only ideal but dangerous. Now her children stay at Kaya during the day. They are younger than the typical children Kaya serves so we completed special waivers and paperwork allowing the organization to safely protect the girls during the day.
Angelica worries a lot about her daughters and brothers. She has a strong motivation to work. She is actively participating in everything that Warmi offers. She has a solid short term and longer term plan to increase her income, provide a safe environment and provide her daughters with a better life. One of the first steps in that plan was to secure a short term one room apartment away from her father with assistance from Warmi Kaya so that she and her daughters could live safely.
Upon successful completion of this process, the women of Kaya will demonstrate an improved ability to care for their children, no matter the circumstance. Warmi graduates will become role models and mentors to girls within the larger community. Kaya’s investment in women and girls has the very real potential to break the vicious cycle for these families in La Paz. Warmi is a multi-year effort to organically address the needs of La Paz's girls and women in an effective and unprecedented way.