Give 100 kids hope for a better future in La Paz.

 
$2,483
$47,517
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She layed in my arms, motionless and distant, a child who seemed to have nothing to give, staring into space with empty eyes. Sick, weak, and hungry, she weighed hardly anything, but the weight of her sadness was almost more than I could physically bear. I was shocked, heartbroken, and full of anger. How could anyone do this to a child? I didn’t understand the feelings that overwhelmed me. I only knew that I had never felt this heartbroken before, and I hoped I would never have to feel this way again.

 

 
 
Esmeralda wasn’t always this way. Even in the worst imaginable circumstances this little child had an innocent joy that resonated from her. Although she didn’t know how to talk, she always greeted us with a smile and communicated with us in any way she could when we visted her mother and her at their home. A home that sat beside a polluted river; a home with a dirt floor; a home with no running water, no heat, not even a front door hung on a frame.  Then soon after one of our visits, Esmeralda disappeared, and as many times as we asked her mother, we had no idea where to find her.
 
Esmeralda was severely sick, weak, and hungry when she finally arrived to the steps of Kaya. Her mother brought her. In many ways her mother was still a child herself. She had no support of her own, no real place to call home, and no desire to be a mother to Esmeralda. Perhaps she never knew her own mother’s love? However, in this moment she knew that something was wrong and that she urgently needed help for Esmeralda, so she brought her to the Kaya Center. She told us that she had left Esmeralda alone at an aunt’s house for several months where Esmeralda was severely neglected and physically abused. Esmeralda’s mother brought her to Kaya not only for help on that day, but she brought her to Kaya because she knew that she could not be a mother to precious Esmeralda.
 
             
 
It was a devastating and difficult experience for all of us. But it was also a day when new life began, a day that we all rejoiced at Kaya, because we knew the story of restoration was just beginning for sweet Esmeralda. It’s been almost two years since Esmeralda arrived at Kaya. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t believe the transformation of this child. From the little girl that sat motionless in my arms, to a child full of life, running around, smiling and bringing joy to everyone around her. She now lives with a family that treasures her, and this little girl now has a mother to show her what a mother’s tender love feels like.
 
 
Since I began working at Kaya over two years ago, I am often reminded of God’s pure love for His children. I can’t help but be in awe of the transformation I have witnessed in Esmeralda’s life – in many of the children’s lives. I am overwhelmed by His power and how he uses us for His work. He takes incredible darkness and transforms lives.
There are many people who have played a part in Esmeralda’s transformation. Kaya was able to give Esmeralda the intensive care that she needed because there is a band of supporters who believe together we can make a difference in the lives of our children in Bolivia. It’s because of your support that lives are being saved from devastation, restored, and radically transformed by the light of God’s love. Thank you for being our partners and providing the resources we need to save the lives of children.
 

As I walk down the streets of La Paz, at times the need seems overwhelming. A very old woman wearing sandals in cold weather holds out her hands asking for a coin. A blind man sits on the corner singing with a hat extended begging for a donation. A young women with a baby on her back collects bottles. A man digs through the trash hoping to find something to eat.

However, nothing breaks my heart like seeing children working in the streets. A child who looks about 8 years old guards cars. He sits hours and hours waiting for cars to come and go, collecting a peso each time a cars leaves. I enter the grocery store and the girl bagging my groceries can’t be older than 10 years old. A group of teenage boys with who I assume are their younger brothers wait to shine shoes, their faces covered with a mask. Some say the masks serve to guard against fumes, others say the masks are to hide their identity. Children who should be playing and enjoying their childhood instead take on the responsibility of feeding and caring for themselves. When my eyes meet their eyes, I see desperation and hopelessness.

One of the children I often saw working on the streets was a little boy named Angelito. Angelito is 8 years old. He works at one of the stoplights on a busy corner. When the light is red, he goes into the cross walk and does acrobatics like handstands and cartwheels. Right before the light turns green, he asks for change from the people waiting in their cars. I have seen Angelito working until 11pm at night, outside, vulnerable in the cold.

Angelito was hesitant to talk with anyone from Kaya and refused invitations to come to the Kaya Center. He learned at a very young age, if he was going to survive on the streets, he must be guarded and trust no one. He was a child I often thought of and prayed for. One day I was at the Kaya Center and I saw Angelito sitting on a chair. I was shocked, how did he arrive to the Kaya Center? I approached him and we starting chatting. It turns out that social services had been contacted and they asked that Angelito attend the Kaya Center as he was at very high risk. With the mandate of social services, Angel started attending the Kaya Center.

When arriving to Kaya, Angel could not recognize any letters. He rarely attended school and got frustrated easily as he was extremely behind the rest of his class. There were days he refused to do any homework and some days he even refused to sit at a table. However, with a lot of patience and attention from his teacher at Kaya, Angel is advancing. Now when he arrives he is the first to take out his homework. He went from not knowing any letters to spelling words. Witnessing his transformation has been a privilege. Angelito has gone from not greeting or talking to anyone to giving long hugs.

Yes, the needs at times still seem endless. There is a lot of work to be done. However with the sadness and heartbreak, stories like Angelito’s fill me with hope and remind me that we are not alone. I believe with my whole heart that God brought Angelito to the Kaya Center. God did what we couldn’t do in our own strength. I have the privilege of seeing God working in Bolivia each and everyday in and through the Kaya Center. One of the core philosophies of Kaya is, “one child at a time.” This time the precious child is Angelito.

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.

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.

It was May 2005. Michelle and I had been working in Bolivia for nine months. Kaya was completing construction of its first permanent home: the Barnabas House.  For the past several years, the one and only home of what was then called the Bolivian Street Children Project was bursting at the seems.  So this new home would not only transform our ministry, but would transform children's lives.  We’d developed trusting relationships with children ready and waiting to enter a new life….


"Grover" was one of those young boys.
 
Living in a tarp under a bridge, Grover, who was by far the youngest in his group, had left an abusive home for life on the streets.  He'd felt the heavy hands of abuse, and had been kept from attending school so that he could earn an income – something common among the children of Bolivia.  Michelle and I had spoken with Grover many times about leaving the streets. And finally, the day had come.  Grover’s only problem:  the older boys wouldn’t let him leave (because he owed them 50 cents!)  We took care of Grover’s debt and he came to live in our apartment as we awaited the opening of the new home.  In the first weeks, we taught Grover some basic life lessons, from bathroom hygiene to trust.  Having spent years wondering where his next meal would come from, Grover never left the table without squirreling away food in his pocket.  Eventually, however, Grover adjusted and grew to love his life in the Kaya home.

But then one day, years later, Grover unexpectedly disappeared.  He left the Kaya home and, despite our best efforts, we were unable to locate him.  We feared the worst.  Having buried more street children than we ever thought possible, our greatest fear was that Grover had returned to the streets and lost his precious life.  But about a year later, Grover contacted us.  He explained how he had tried to go home to help his family, but found that his family had not healed as he had.  He realized that his home was not a safe place and -- being then an adolescent – decided to enroll in the military for his obligatoryservice.

This past summer, as I visited La Paz once again, I had the honor of seeing Grover for the first time in many years. Having completed his military service, he lives on his own, and is planning to go to military college in the hopes of becoming an officer. Grover works an overnight shift at a bakery to save money.  Even more, he continues to be in contact with his “Kaya Family” often even giving of his own money to help his “brothers” in their times of need.  Grover’s story is one of an amazing transformation.  He once lived a desperate life of abuse, neglect and hopelessness in the streets. Yet, today, he is a beacon of hope to everyone around him and his face glows with pride.

Since 1997, Kaya has made deep investments in the lives of the children we serve. As Grover’s story demonstrates, Kaya changes the life of a child forever.  But the full cost of Kaya’s programs for a boy like Grover is about $350/month.  I don’t know about you, but I think it's worth every penny. While we might struggle with our own financial issues, the cost of saving a life is “priceless.”  Please consider making a gift to Kaya Children. Today, Kaya serves over 100 children in our programs, but we cannot do this work without partners like you. Will you join us?

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Project Leader

Sarah Kwok

Development Associate
Lincoln, MA United States

Where is this project located?