The Children. They are the common thread that runs through our stories... about why we support Kaya; why we feel drawn to this cause. Children on the streets may feel invisible to most, but when we hear their stories and look into their eyes, we truly "see" them. By listening and caring, we've decided that these children, and their life stories, are important. And by taking action, we're doing something about it. Through our decision to give, we are changing their lives for the better, letting them know that they are not forgotten.
One of our earliest promises was to "tell the stories" of the children whom Kaya is privileged to serve. So this Christmas season, we share with you the story of one boy, Angel, who -- abandoned by his mother -- spent his earliest childhood years living on the streets with an alcoholic father. The one wish he held onto was that he would, one day, be reunited with his brothers again. With your help, this wish came true. Please remember the many other children like Angel, living on the streets of Bolivia in severe poverty, beyond what most of us can imagine, holding onto nothing more than the hope that their lives might change.
Consider Jonathan. His mother, with whom he lived on the streets for years, was involved in the sex trade and contracted AIDS. When Jonathan's mother died, our friends asked Kaya to welcome Jonathan into our home because Kaya was the only organization they trusted to care for him. Or little Hector, whose mother died when he was just five. To help his father suppport the family, he left school at age 8 to earn money, watching cars. With Kaya's help, Hector now attends school in the mornings, and returns to the Kaya Center for lunch and academic support in the afternoons.
When we hear their stories, we are reminded, too, of how our own lives sit in stark contrast to the lives of these young, struggling children. How blessed we are to have the means to help. So, please consider a gift in the amount that is right for you. It is your caring that makes a difference in the lives of the children!
What if you were born into poverty in Bolivia – the poorest country in South America? What if the parents you looked up to were unable, or unwilling, to care for you? What if they drank too much, got angry a lot, or abused and neglected you? Or what if they truly loved you and tried, but just could not manage to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders?
Maybe they told themselves that you were “better off” without them when they left you on a street corner saying they’d return. Maybe you convinced yourself that you’d be better off without them out there in the world with no rules, no chores and no school. After all, you’re only eight and you believe in magic. But the magical wishes for a better life fade and are replaced with a harsh reality.
Out on the streets alone, you try to steer clear of those who hurt you, try to stay warm in a cardboard shack with no heat, no clean water, no toilet, and no food. And worse… you soon realize that there is no one in the world who cares; no one to bandage your wounds or hold you when you cry; no one who loves you with an unconditional love. Imagine you’re only eight years old and, somehow, you’ve found yourself all alone with no place to call home and no one to call “Mom” or “Dad.”
But what if someone, far away in another country, decided that your life mattered; that you deserved help. Thank you for recognizing the children at Kaya and playing a part in their lives. We are grateful for you!
Kaya Children International brings these children home to a clean, safe place where they are not only given a warm bed, food, education and medical care… but the love and concern of dedicated staff members 24 hours a day. Kaya provides each child with “wrap-around” services that address not just the physical solutions, but also the root causes and invisible psychological wounds these children bear. Kaya psychologists help the children deal with feelings of loss and mistrust while Kaya’s “Warmi” (means Woman) works with “at risk” mothers to prevent the financial and emotional crises that may lead their children to a life on the streets. Together, let's restore childhoods and change 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.
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