Project #4209

Rescuing children from a life on the streets

by Kaya Children International

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.

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.


Over the next few years many more children echoed the idea, build us a home that will help us heal. That’s when we, as a group, pulled together and built these children a home, and then another.  The results have been overwhelmingly positive. We, with God’s immense blessing, have succeeded in meeting the extraordinary needs of street children by listening, learning and implementing our beliefs.  We have stayed true to our original calling by listening with our hearts, and acting with conscience.  Your partnership through that process has been irreplaceable.

1.  Street Children need us.  
2.  Kaya's holistic care is effective and enduring.  
3. Your support is essential -- we could not fulfill our mission without you!

For more than 12 years, supporters like you have empowered Kaya to develop and implement this new model of care, and we know, it works.  We rescue street children and welcome them into an environment that heals the whole child, customized to their individual needs.  Kaya’s children receive comprehensive care including medical, clinical, educational and recreational activities.  We also do everything we can to demonstrate, in word and action, Jesus’ life-changing love and power to each child.  In some cases, we are reconnecting children with their families and facilitating healthy relationships. Today, the Kaya program goes far beyond what any orphanage can provide.

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.


For many children in Bolivia, whole families live in cardboard boxes -- an existence so terrible that some children bravely leave them in search of a better life. What they find is the street -- a hard reality where thieves, drug addicts, and prostitutes are their mentors.   

Kaya Children International addresses these challenges and offers street children the chance to dream of a life where not only basic needs are met - but all things are possible. Thanks to the generosity of people like you, we have successes to share. But there is much more work to be done and we need your help.

Let me tell you about Jorge. We first met Jorge on the streets. We spent a year seeking him out, talking, praying, building a relationship and finally convincing him to give Kaya a try; leave the streets behind. He eventually did. His stay in the transitional house was typical. He ran away many times -- he swore, stole, lied, cheated, and manipulated -- skills that served him well on the streets. He couldn’t imagine a life where he didn’t need to do those things.  

But Kaya never gave up on him. We sought Jorge every time he ran; talked him through every struggle; forgave and allowed him the space to try again. Even after his last year of school, Jorge struggled to figure out what comes next. Kaya helped him find something that lit his fire, culinary school. He enjoyed it, excelled, and secured a job. But there was still something missing.  

Jorge mourned the loss of his family.  So we helped him realize that dream too. Kaya sponsored visits and phone calls, and family-centered clinical support. Our efforts paid off! Jorge reunited with his mother and brother. He moved in, contributes to the household and he beamingly reports his happiness.  

Kaya always believed in Jorge and finally he did too.

This is an example of the unique care that Kaya provides. Our holistic approach provides a nurturing and spiritual home environment with an emphasis on developing critical self-help and life skills.

This is radical and life changing work. And work that depends on support from people like you. Will you help Kaya’s children with a gift today?

Thank you in advance for your support. Your generosity will allow street children to break the cycle of cruelty and believe in a hopeful tomorrow. We pray that your journey of faith, forgiveness and reconciliation will be as rewarding as Jorge’s.

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.

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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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