Project #4209

Rescuing children from a life on the streets

by Kaya Children International

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.
It is not easy to get reliable statistics about the poverty in Bolivia, despite how widespread it is. Even so, estimates confirm that 35.3% of the population lives in extreme poverty, which means they cannot meet basic needs such as water, food, and shelter. If those statistics are accurate, over 1,883,000 women live in poverty, many of them very young, still girls. These women are the most vulnerable segment of Bolivian society.
Of those people living in extreme poverty, over 70% are children. As a result of this rampant poverty, research shows that more than 12,000 children have been abandoned on the streets of Bolivia due to neglect, abuse, poverty, or their parents’ addiction. In 2011, statistics indicated that 900 children per year were abandoned and only 40 children per year were adopted.This is why Kaya Children International exists.
Twelve thousand abandoned children means at least 6,000 abandoned girls. These girls are marked by that abandonment for life and are unable to break the cycle of poverty by themselves. The cycle of poverty creates a new generation of women that practice the same neglect toward their children as the one before them. Having known only neglect, they cannot envision another way of being. If nothing is done, for every girl who has been abandoned today, a new generation of girls marked by abandonment will follow in the future.Just imagine that one girl is left to survive on the streets alone and she has three daughters. Those three girls will in turn create a generation of nine girls growing up in extreme poverty and at high risk of being abandoned.
These numbers are overwhelming. These numbers are humbling, but these numbers make us realize something important: When you save a girl who has been abandoned, you break that cycle, and you are not just saving one child, you are saving future generations of children. The children at Kaya experience what it means to have a home and can in turn raise their children, the future generations of Bolivia, in the safety and love of a home. For every girl Kaya saves, we are saving girls in the near future and in the distant future. Imagine the impact if we had the resources to save more girls from the streets.
As many of you know, nine months ago we opened our first girls’ home at Kaya, rescuing five girls from the streets. These five girls might be a very small percentage of the 6,000 abandoned girls in our country, but we know that these five girls represent a lot more than that. They represent breaking the cycle, they represent escaping their expected future, they represent a much larger number than five—they represent a better tomorrow.
Please join the Kaya team and help us provide a family and a home for the most vulnerable girls in Bolivia. A home where the girls will grow in safety, learning about the love God has for them. Every child we save at Kaya represents a better tomorrow for future generations of children. There is no better way to invest in the future! Thank you for your partnership with us!
Update on the Kaya Graduates  
After being prepared in Kaya's Transition-to-Independence Program to live independently, the young adults who grew up in Kaya's Residential Program transition out or graduate from being under Kaya's formal supervision, though they remain a part of the Kaya Family forever. Here is an update on what some of the young men are doing since graduating from the Kaya Programs:
Daniel was one of the first young men to graduate from the Kaya Residential Program in 2012 after arriving to Kaya at age 9. Daniel just completed his 1st year at university where he is studying Education. He works as the House Parent in Kaya’s residential home, “Casa Juvinil” with boys ages 16-20. Daniel is thankful for the second opportunity that Kaya gave him.     
Ariel joined the Kaya family in 2003 at age 12. Since graduating from Kaya in January of 2013, Ariel has continued his studies at a local university to be a Physical Education Instructor. In January, he started his 5thand final year of university. He is currently working hard to finish his thesis. At night and on the weekends he works at a restaurant. Ariel loves to play sports and is a talented athlete. 
Marco was one of the first boys to enter the Kaya family in December of 2001 at age 10. He graduated from Kaya in June of 2013. Marco is currently finishing his 2nd year of university studying Business Administration. He also works at “Chocolandia” selling chocolate and other sweets. Marco enjoys running, and he recently got a puppy that he named Denali, that loves to run with him.
Henry came to Kaya in 2003 at age 13. Henry is finishing his 3rd year of university studying Psychomotor Activity. Henry works part-time in Kaya’s residential home, “Casa Betania” with boys who are 13-16 years old. Henry enjoys working with the boys in "Casa Betania" and thinks it is important to support children who have similar stories and background to his.
Kaya supporters have provided a family and a future for each one of these young men who at one time called the streets their home. Your continued support will allow Kaya to continue to rescue children from the streets and provide them with housing, clothing, food, medical care, protection, love and a future.
On behalf of all the Kaya graduates and all the Kaya graduates to come, THANK YOU for your generosity! Your support truly makes a difference…one child at a time!

Here I am, 4800 miles away, far from my friends and family in California. I don’t think I had ever imagined what Christmas Eve would be like without them, and if I had, I don’t think I could have imagined this. No, I’m not sad nor lonely. Instead, as I look around the room this Christmas Eve, I think to myself, “There is no place I would rather be.” There is happiness and anticipation throughout. The children cannot contain their excitement! The overwhelming joy they are feeling as they are preparing to celebrate this day with their new family. What an incredible peace I feel on this Christmas Eve, knowing there is no other place in the world I would rather be, than here at Kaya.

However, I also know that not everyone in the room feels peace. The holidays can be a difficult time for our children at Kaya. The holidays can bring back agonizing memories for many of the children. Memories of when the children’s biological families failed them. Memories of binge drinking by their parents. Memories of being hungry and searching the streets for food. Memories of abandonment and sadness. Memories of waking to beatings on Christmas morning. Horrible memories for anyone to have.

But as I look around the room this Christmas Eve, I know that new happy memories are being made. I’m overwhelmed by the redemptive stories that each child represents. I look at three brothers, laughing together as the youngest shows off his new shoes. Just years ago these three brothers were all sleeping on the streets. Cold. Tired. Hungry. Today, these brothers celebrate Christmas as a family; safely at their home they call Kaya.

It is a rare and priceless gift to sit by and watch these children celebrate together. I can’t help but think of the new beautiful memories being made. Memories of a supportive and encouraging family. Collectively these children all tell a familiar story of their past. But today, they are now safe in a home full of love and have a future full of hope.

Overwhelmed by the grace of God, it was in that moment it struck me. This is what Christmas is all about, lives being rescued and restored with the Love of God that was born on Christmas Day. What a gift to spend Christmas with my Kaya family.

First Results of Census of the Homeless Population in Bolivia

A census of people who currently live in the streets in Bolivia was recently completed. This census was a joint effort between the Bolivian government and organizations that work with the homeless population. The Bolivian government provided funding and oversight and the organizations went to the streets to fill out the census. This helped assure that the information provided in the census was correct and allowed for the highest number possible to be counted. The official results and compete report will be released next month, but the first results were shared in a meeting last week. Below are some statistics that can help us better understand the population with whom Kaya Children International works:

The population living in the streets is young:

  • 31.6% of those living in the streets are 19 years old or younger.
  • 60.4% of those living in the streets are 29 years old or younger.
  • The median age of those living in the streets is 23 years old; the youngest counted was less than 6 months and the oldest 94 years old.

Children turn to the streets at a very young age:

  • 50% of those currently living in the streets first began living in the streets at 14 years old or younger.
  • 18% of those currently living in the streets first began living in the streets between the ages of 5-9 years old.

There are second generation children living in the streets:

  • 46% of the population living in the streets have children and 26% have children that currently live with them.
  • 28.7% of those living in the streets between the ages of 10-19 years old have children.

Life in the streets is hard:

  • 22% of those living in the streets have no documentation of any kind.
  • 42% at the time of the interview reported some kind of illness.
  • 49.5% don’t seek any medical care when they are sick.

The work that Kaya Children International and other organizations do is important but there is still much to be done:

  • 40.1% reported that they receive some sort of support of which 92.3% said was from institutions such as Kaya.

Because they have no other option, children are arriving to the streets. As we can see from the statistics above, without any intervention, these children are having more children and raising them in the streets. Now, more than ever, it is time to stop this cycle. Each statistic represents individual people and stories. Kaya provides a new start, new opportunity, a new life. Each and every child who has found a home at Kaya is one child that did not have to be counted in this census. Will you join Kaya in rescuing children from the streets and restoring their childhood? Together we can make a difference….one child at a time.

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Organization Information

Kaya Children International

Location: Lincoln, MA - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Sarah Kwok
Development Associate
Lincoln, MA United States
$41,576 raised of $50,000 goal
425 donations
$8,424 to go
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