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.
Do you remember making forts in the living room out of a blanket or a cardboard box when you were a kid? An explorer, an astronaut... who doesn’t recall the carefree joy of believing that you could do or be anything at all.
Your support makes it possible for us to serve more children at the Kaya Center. By increasing the number of day students at the Kaya Center we are able to begin positive intervention in a child's life before he or she makes the streets a permanent home.
Earlier this summer, the Kaya Center moved to a new building better capable of serving the needs of the children, the staff and the organization as a whole. The building, rented by another international non-profit for over 10 years, is conveniently located for children in the residential program, children from the community and family members. The space will serve as the Kaya Children International headquarters in La Paz, Bolivia for years to come. In addition to being the center of the program’s administrative team, the space also has 4 classrooms, a small library and a large meeting room. There are also three private offices that house the Program Director, the Clinical Team and the Administrative Team. The kitchen is sufficient for producing over 80 hot meals everyday and the children eat in a nicely furnished outdoor dining space. There’s a large patio and a garden that has already seen its fair share of soccer matches. Also, the space includes an in-law type apartment in the back that is currently housing the 5 young men in our Independent Living Program. They are close enough to receive daily support but have their own space and freedom to start to experience independence. Although they have their own kitchen, many continue to use their charm on the cooks resulting in well cooked meals nearly every day.
Children spend their time at the center organized into groups based on their ages and abilities. Each group has between one and three facilitators based on the need. Having a high staff to child ratio allows each child to receive as much individual attention as possible and gives the educators freedom to invest in transformative relationships. As a group, children participate in homework help and educational tutoring, arts and crafts, martial arts, soccer, field trips, occupational therapy and spiritual formation. Additionally, every child is given a hot meal and at least one snack. If needed, they are also given the opportunity to take a shower.
We couldn't be doing any of this without your support. All of us at Kaya Children International, both in Bolivia and in our U.S. office, are incredibly grateful for you because without you, we could not move forward with such important work for children on the streets everywhere.
A new child recently moved into one of our Kaya homes. José is 9 years old. Until recently, he lived with his mother who worked as a prostitute. His mother is now dying and there are no friends, no family, and no next of kin to care for José. Another organization caring for his mother reached out to us and we welcomed José with open arms. He has never lived on the streets but experience shows he would have ended up there quickly after his mother's death. We are just beginning to learn the depth of José's trauma, grief and heartbreak. The staff at Kaya are accompanying José weekly to spend time with his dying mother. We are sitting with him in his darkest moments willing to share the burden.
But in the midst of all this, there is hope. José, a brave young boy, is playing soccer, attending school, making friends, and starting in the smallest ways to imagine his spring.
Although none of us will hopefully ever experience the pain this young man has, we can join him in his struggle. At this point of extreme vulnerability, he is heavily dependent on the staff at Kaya. He is also heavily dependent on partners like you, although he doesn't know it. Without the partnership of people like you, we would not be able to work with children like José. Kaya is so much more than just us and him. It includes you. These small children have joined a global community committed to a more positive future for children like José. Your support and gifts are essential to the current and future work of Kaya. There are more children like José that we continue to meet every day. Please consider making an additional or an increased financial gift to Kaya.
As someone who has been a supporter of Kaya, we ask you to step forward with us and continue to make a difference towards the work we are doing with kids like José. Your gift could go even further to support street children in Bolivia. The world sadly enough, needs organizations like Kaya and Kaya needs us.
Help Kaya Children work towards a better future where no child will call the streets home.
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