Imagine with me for a moment. You’re a 12-year-old child. You live with your family of four in extreme poverty. You and your family sleep, eat and live together in one small room, roughly 10’x10’ in size. The home is made of clay and there are large holes in the walls, letting in the cold and the rain. There is no front door and your floor is made of dirt. Inside your home you have no heat, no running water, and practically everything you’ve ever owned has been discarded by someone else.
Stay with me. Instead of going to school to learn and instead of playing on the playground with other children and enjoying the innocence of childhood, each day you are sent by your father to work in the streets. Now imagine the fear of knowing that if you don’t bring home enough money you will receive a severe beating from your father. Your parents, the ones who are supposed to protect you, encourage you and love you, instead are the ones who put your life in danger each and every day. This is Maya’s story.
We met Maya and her little brother while they were doing acrobats in the streets to earn coins. Cold, alone, vulnerable, they would work late into the night. After many invitations, the children started attending the Kaya Center. We supported the children in every way we could and tried to find ways to work with the family. However, knowing the nightmare these precious children returned home to each night was heartbreaking.
Then one day Maya showed up on the doorstep of one of our staff members with her little brother, Angel. They were scared and couldn’t go back home. Just a few months ago, having no girls’ residential home, we would have had to turn Maya away. However, now that we have opened a girls’ home, we were able to welcome Maya and her little brother into Kaya’s Residential Program. A new chapter has begun in Maya’s story, a chapter full of HOPE.
Kaya Children International exists to fight for Maya and other children like Maya. Children who have no one, children who are losing hope, children who are vulnerable. With your support, Maya has a voice, a life, and a promising future. Maya’s story is full of darkness, but the light of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter morning shines more powerfully than any darkness. It transforms lives and brings restoration and rebirth.
Here in La Paz it is summer! The children have finished their school year and are enjoying summer vacation!
The children at Kaya are forced at a very young age to learn to survive. Whether it is a 4 year old who is left alone to take care of her 2 year old sister or a 8 year old who must bring home a certain amount of money each evening or face abuse at the hands of his father, children are forced to grow up very early. Children come to Kaya from sleeping in ATM booths, from working 12-hour days on the streets, from abusive situations; these children have never had the opportunity to play like the precious children they are.
Our founding vision at Kaya was to restore childhood to those from whom it has been unceremoniously stolen and summer vacation is a great time for this! During the school year, one of the main activities and goals of the Kaya center is academic support. By the end of the year, both children and staff look forward to summer vacation when they have the opportunity to play, go on fieldtrips and explore the city of La Paz. Kaya has a summer program where children have the opportunity to visit museums and parks, go to the swimming pool, participate in dance and music classes, bake together, play sports and much more.
Liseth is a precious 6-year-old child who came to the Kaya Center at the beginning of this year. Initally, her mom didn’t allow her to attend because she had to take care of her two baby brothers. We worked with her mom to find childcare for the two babies so Liseth could attend school and Kaya. Liseth has spent much of her short life locked in her small, one-room home. She is responsible for much of the cleaning and cooking at her house. Before coming to Kaya, she had hardly left her neighborhood.
To get to accompany Liseth during summer vacation has been a great joy. She was amazed at the zoo seeing all the animals. She doesn’t stop smiling the whole time she is at the swimming pool. She loves making Christmas crafts and eagerly decorated the Kaya Center. She loves to bake and is the first to volunteer to help. Liseth is one of many children who for the first time this summer has had the opportunity to play and participate in the joys of childhood.
Each morning, nearly 70 children eagerly await the activities of the day. Summer vacation is normally when children spend more time on the streets and are forced to fend for themselves as their parents disappear for days at a time as they are partying for the holiday. This is a time when children are lost. However, Kaya offers a safe alternative for the children to come and celebrate the holidays in a healthy, fun manner. We assure the children stay fed and are taken care of during the time school is out and the children are the most vulnerable. In this holiday season, please consider how you can support Kaya as we restore childhood…one child at a time.
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.
Most children served at the Kaya Center were spending much of their time working and hanging out in the streets and were not attending school. Children served in the full-day program come from very unstable, poor homes, many with a history of abuse and neglect in their families. At the Kaya Center, children receive a meal, emotional and educational support, clothing and educational materials, and a safe a stable environment to learn and play.
Over the past 5 years, we’ve served many young girls through our programs at the Kaya Center and are grateful for that. It’s been great to help children who are entering street life but still have stable enough homes that we can support their families and prevent high-risk children from entering the streets. While this has enabled us to serve girls, who we previously did not serve, it’s also made the need for a girls' residential home painfully obvious to us. Without the possibility of a residential home we keep encountering the same problem: we cannot help some girls. It’s not because we don’t have the skills or desire, it’s because we don’t have the resources. Just like boys, there are girls in our program living in unstable or abusive homes or simply not in a home at all. These girls would be best served by entering a residential program. Kaya has the experience, partnerships and desire necessary to serve these children, but we need the facilities to do so.
Thank you for partnering together with us to transform lives in Bolivia. Please consider a donation in any amount to Kaya to help us continue this vital ministry.
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