Children who have lived on the streets have so many needs. The basic need for food and shelter is obvious. Medical care and education are critically needed, and so vitally important too. But to feel that they are loved, that someone out there really cares about them, is far more important to the children than anything else. Which is why we at Kaya are so grateful for all of our volunteers who make the trip to Bolivia to work face-to-face with the children, taking the time to get to know each of them as unique and wonderful individuals. There is no amount of money that can buy what the children receive from caring volunteers who give the kids what they need most of all... LOVE!Kaya volunteers hail from all over the globe, bringing different talents, languages, experiences and skills. Whether it's playing futbol or guitar, the children truly crave quality time with caring adults. Our latest group of volunteers from Germany have truly enjoyed working with the children, and a new volunteer just arrived last month from Belgium! Since she is a psychologist, she is helping to evaluate children when they first arrive.
A US volunteer, Katie Harris, is working alongside them. One of Katie's jobs at the house is to help plan the boys' birthday celebrations. When Katie first arrived at Kaya, it was clear to her that each staff member truly loved the kids. She says, “This makes the Kaya Center a very special place. The kids receive food, clothing and academic support, but – more importantly – they also receive encouragement, love and acceptance. One of the things I value most about the Kaya Center is that it is a space where our kids can be typical kids—they play, laugh and even sometimes fight.”
Your support means that the children at Kaya are able to spend their days in a safe environment, where they are loved, where they are able to dream big, and where they are able to just be kids. Thank you for recognizing the children at Kaya and playing a part in their lives. We are grateful for you!
Josue (age 11) and his brother, Fidel (age 9) moved into one of Kaya’s home earlier this year. They ran away from home two years earlier to escape abuse at the hands of their father. The dark, cold streets of La Paz were their home for nearly a year until their father went to jail. You can only imagine the excitement in these young boys hearts when they returned home to their mother and new stepfather.
Josue and Fidel’s family is extremely poor. Like many others, they live in crowded housing without sanitation, reliable running water or electricity. Josue and Fidel had to contribute to the household income in anyway possible. They guarded cars in the city streets, shined shoes and at times begged and stole. But life got even worse for the boys --their stepfather resented them. He denied them food, school fees and even at times refused to let them inside. A short time later, the physical abuse started again.
Despite having a family, Josue and Fidel were on the streets again until they arrived at Kaya. At Kaya, they are living in a safe haven escaping the violence and dangerous influences of the street. They are enrolled in school for the first time in nearly three years and receiving extra academic support. Through a new pilot program, Kaya is working with their mother. Our shared hope is for their reunification in a safe, healthy and loving environment. Most importantly, at Kaya, Josue and Fidel are learning that God loves them and has a plan for their lives.
It is a long, slow road. Many, many positive words of encouragement are needed to overcome the negative ones they have absorbed. Josue and Fidel, like many of Kaya’s children, have been beaten down for years. They are just starting to believe that there may be something different. Your support and ongoing partnership with Kaya helps make a difference in the lives of children like Josue and Fidel.
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.
In Bolivia, thousands of children living in urban areas call the streets home. They sleep in sewers, in abandoned buildings, and in trees, surviving day by day. The majority have experienced abuse and neglect, and many are being pulled into prostitution as a means of supporting themselves. Street children are notoriously difficult to count, but it is estimated that over 3,000 children in the three major cities of Bolivia call the streets their full-time home, and nearly a million more are working on the streets by day, moving toward a full-time life on the streets (UNICEF-Bolivia). In a country of only 9 million people, the presence of so many children on the street is a significant problem.
To fulfill our mission, Kaya identifies, rescues and transforms street children through three successful and targeted programs: Street Outreach, Residences and the Kaya Center.
Street Outreach. Kaya identifies hundreds of kids living on the streets. We intercede in dangerous situations, build relationships and identify candidates for Kaya’s daily care programs. We respond to their extremely high- risk activities, with direct interventions and preventative resources whenever possible. At times, children are also referred to us through local aid programs and their outreach efforts.
Residential Care. Kaya provides holistic and residential care to dozens of former street children in a loving family environment while they successfully reintegrate into society as safe, confident and productive individuals.
Kaya Center. At the heart of all of Kaya’s day to day activities and services is The Kaya Center. The Center serves all of Kaya’s residential children and dozens of community children living on the streets, or those living at home but who are at extreme high risk of street life. Through education, therapeutic services and group activities, children grow emotionally, spiritually and learn to help themselves to a future with potential. The Kaya Center is also the site for implementation of the new outreach program for women, Warmi Kaya.
In our efforts to improve the lives of the street children, it became logical to consider the potential benefits of serving mothers. The reunification program and informal interventions had already demonstrated the positive impact of working with families, especially women and girls. In 2012, Kaya will formally launch 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. Upon successful completion of this process, the women of Kaya will demonstrate an improved ability to care 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.
To illustrate the need for Kaya's innovative services, we offer the latest story of two girls, a young mother and her daughter. Nineteen year old Mabel came to the Kaya Center with Claritza, her 5-year-old daughter. The mother had recently arrived in La Paz with no money or means to support herself or her child. After meeting their immediate needs – nourishment and shelter, The Kaya staff was able to give Mabel basic training as a housekeeper and found employment with a living situation. Claritza now attends school and spends days at the Kaya center. These basic interventions saved two lives by preventing their entering life on the streets.
We are confident that our actions today, may very well position Claritza to live to see a brighter and more promising tomorrow.
The breadth of care we can now offer girls and women are well aligned with our mission – and with the flexibility, compassion and dedication Kaya demonstrates regularly – we will continue to do God’s work.
I take my last evening walk before I head back to the States... Passing my local street children’s haunts, it is fairly empty tonight. Out in the corner of my eye, I see a small child crouch in front of the movie theater. I realize it's Marcos ... only I thought I had already saved him from the streets and brought him to an orphanage... Now I find the child glassy eyed, high on paint thinners, seemingly full of bravado and contempt, but in fact as fragile as... a lost child.
“Hey, Marcos... What are you doing here?”
“The streets are better than that crappy orphanage that you sent me to.”
I wonder, what went wrong? Where are all of the clothes that I got for him? Why did he choose to come back to the streets? My heart drops, my pride swells up out of arrogance for failure, but more importantly I am sad. I’ve failed... what was I missing? The answer was right in front of me. I understand in my heart that the typical ways of dealing with kids on the streets is simply not working, and was never going to work.
These children are so completely lost and broken, they need to be healed from the inside, they need more than just a roof over their heads -- they needed love, consistency, well-designed and specific wrap-around care.
Chi Huang wrote those words in 1998 when he was just beginning to understand the explicit needs of the children he was already caring for on the streets of La Paz. The children, their frustration and their desperation broke his heart and changed his life. He started a movement which is now Kaya Children International.
Your generous donations provide the resources Kaya needs to save, support and improve the lives of street children; teaching them self-sustaining life skills, and the opportunity to heal. As a Christian organization providing services overseas, Kaya depends on the consistent generosity of donors like you. Please consider a gift to Kaya Children today.
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