Kaya Children International

The mission of Kaya Children International is to address the unique needs of street children in Bolivia and around the world through direct service, research and advocacy.
Nov 10, 2015

Kaya's Soccer Superstar

   
Imagine that all your friends are getting ready to go out and play with dolls in the street, but all you can think about is getting ready for practice. Passion invades you since this is what you really love to do and, moreover, you're very good at it. While your sister and her friends play with their Barbie dolls, you put on your cleats and a hat to protect you from the sun and run towards your greatest passion: SOCCER.
 
This is the story of Fabiola, a girl from Kaya with a great talent for the sport of soccer and a determination that has taken her far. Far towards her dreams for the future, and far away from the image that traditional Bolivian society expects her to maintain. Fabiola has been very passionate about playing soccer since she was little; however, since she is a girl, no soccer school would accept her. In addition, her family was not happy that she wanted to participate in a sport they considered “for boys.”
 
"I thought it was just a whim and that the desire to play would go away, so I spoke to her and told her to play like other girls. But the desire to play persisted, and I decided to support my daughter in the fulfillment of her dreams," said Fabiola's mother. Despite receiving insults from their neighbors and close friends who warned her that if she let her daughter keep playing soccer she would end up losing her, Fabiola´s mother persevered in encouraging her daughter and gradually began to see the fruits of that support.
 
Fabiola lives with her mother and brothers in extreme poverty. Her father abandoned them several years ago, and they now live in a two-square-meter room. Only recently have they received water and electricity service. Fabiola and her siblings attend theKaya Center for educational and nutritional support. Every day, Fabiola wakes up early ready to train. Through Kaya, Fabiola obtained access and a scholarship to a recognized soccer school and now trains three times a week and plays matches on weekends. Fabiola loves to play soccer and has won several awards for her talent. "I have been given medals, baskets of food, trophies, and once I was given a sheep because I was the best player in the game," says Fabiola.
 
Kaya completely supports Fabiola´s wish to play soccer. We make sure she eats properly every weekday; we take her to and pick her up from every soccer practice. We help pay for soccer fees when she plays in championships, and we are on the sidelines cheering when she has the opportunity to play in a soccer match.
 
Fabiola´s biggest dream is to play professional soccer and be able to help her family. She would like to be able to give them better opportunities in the future. One thing is certain: No matter how difficult the future may look, this little girl will keep working hard every day and changing the idea of what it means in Bolivia to “play like a girl.” Your support to Kaya makes these dreams possible.
Nov 10, 2015

Making a Difference for Sofia

Extreme poverty is a sad reality in Bolivia. Mere words cannot describe the wretched conditions in which many children live. No running water or electricity. Crumbling walls that cannot protect against cold weather. Insufficient food to eat. No one to care for you. These are only some aspects that permeate the environment that some children in La Paz have to face every day.

Recently, I visited the home of a little girl and witnessed this situation with my own eyes. Being there, one is overwhelmed by the abject poverty and cannot help but understand how it affects every aspect of a child's life.
 
The home I visited was that of a little girl named Sofia. She is a four-year-old who doesn´t know what it is like to live a life where there is food on the table (or even a table). She does not know the meaning of clean clothes; she has only the dirty ones she wears each day. She does not know the feeling of taking a shower because she does not have a shower at her house. Her head is constantly full of lice. Sofia lives with her six-year-old sister, her one-month-old baby sister, and her parents. They all live in a two-meter square room lacking all the basic necessities. When we first met Sofia and her family, it was apparent that the family structure was marked by indifference. Sofia´s mom didn´t know when Sofia was born. She thought it wasn’t important since Sofia was the second child and not the first.
 
Sofia's father works in the informal market as a mason. He needs to find construction work every week. If he is lucky, he makes 50 Bolivianos ($7.50 US) a day—if he is able to find a job that day. If not, the family suffers through another day of hunger and unfulfilled needs.
 
Sofia attends the Kaya Center. She is part of Kaya’s prevention program, a program that exists to intervene before children make a permanent transition to the street. When I visited Sofia’s home, my instinct was to want to remove this child from her home. How can a little girl live in these conditions? But there is a bond between Sofia and her mom, however imperfect the relationship may be. We work to keep families together. The hard truth is we have limited space in our houses. Our girls' house filled up so quickly with girls who had NO place at all to call home. 
 
Kaya can't eliminate poverty in Bolivia, but we can work to lessen the burdens of some of the children living in it. Sofia is not the only child in Bolivia who lives in these conditions; indeed, every child in Kaya´s prevention program does, and this is why the Kaya Center exists.
 
Kaya believes there is hope for the future for children like Sofia. Thus, we gave her the opportunity to attend kindergarten. We also make sure she eats a nutritional meal every day at the Kaya Center. In addition, we continue to work with her family to help improve conditions so they can escape extreme poverty one day. At Kaya Children International, we are engaged in the long-term work of changing lives. Your support to Kaya helps make a difference in Sofia's life and for many other children who would otherwise call the streets home.
Sep 8, 2015

Celebrating Miracles Many Years in the Making

"Sometimes you need 15 years to see a miracle."-- Dr. Chi Huang, founder of Kaya Children International in his book When Invisible Children Sing

Waiting is incredibly difficult. Sometimes we feel frustrated, anxious and disappointed when things do not happen quickly. At Kaya Children International, we are engaged in the long-term work of changing lives. This change happens slowly over the course of a child’s life, and at times it is difficult to see the impact that we are making. However, there are amazing moments, by the grace of God, when we clearly get to see the fruits of our labor. One of these moments is when a young adult graduates from Kaya’s Residential Program. Graduation signifies the successful completion of a cycle. The graduation ceremony at Kaya is a time for celebration as we look back on the graduate’s life and see the incredible transformation that they have gone through over their years with us. It is a time where we honor the graduate and bless them as they transition to the next phase when they will live independently. Last month, we had the privilege of celebrating the graduation of two very special young men, Nicolas and Israel.

Both Nicolas and Israel came to live in Kaya’s Residential Program when they were still very young. Nicolas was eight and Israel was eleven. Kaya staff members found Israel living in an abandoned building with no home to sleep in each night. At such a young age, he had already experienced the terrors of life on the streets—neglect, violence, and abuse. Nicolas' story is similar. He had no family to care for him; there was no place for this little boy to call home. Nicolas and Israel were welcomed and grew up in Kaya. They consider Kaya their home, their family. Over the years at Kaya, they faced many ups and downs. There were very hard moments, but the staff at Kaya never gave up on them. Through the hard times and good times, we were committed to Nicolas and Israel. This was a long-term commitment that included feeding and clothing these two boys. It meant sitting by their bedside when they were sick and making sure they attended school. At times it meant going out and finding them when they had run away and bring them back home. We celebrated birthdays and drove them to soccer practice. We accompanied them and listened to them. We modeled for them and taught them about the love of God.

At the graduation ceremony for Nicolas and Israel, we looked back and remembered the many challenges they had faced and saw how far they had come to conquer adversities. Today, over ten years since arriving to Kaya, Nicolas and Israel are healthy adults. Israel has completed a technical institute where he trained to be a chef. He is currently working in a bakery. Nicolas graduated from high school and is working at a local restaurant. After graduation, Israel and Nicolas will remain in close contact with the Kaya staff and their Kaya brothers. Kaya will always be their family; we will always be there if they need help or advice. Along with all the other Kaya graduates, Israel and Nicolas will come home to celebrate holidays. However, we are confident they are prepared to live independently.

When Dr. Chi Huang founded Kaya over 18 years ago he wrote, “Sometimes you need 15 years to see a miracle.”  Immersed in joy, the children and staff of Kaya and guests at Nicolas and Israel’s graduation had the amazing privilege of seeing a miracle that night, a miracle many years in the making. The work that Kaya does is hard. The work that Kaya does is long-term. From a scared little boy who had no where to turn but the streets, to independent, thriving adults, the work Kaya does is truly life changing.

We are very thankful to be a part of Israel and Nicolas’ lives. We also thank each person who has supported Kaya over the last 18 years. You too have played a part in Nicolas and Israel’s stories. Because of you, these two young men had a childhood. Because of you these two young men grew up in a loving home. Because of you, these two young men are now independent adults.

 

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