Niños con Valor E-Newsletter - January 2009
Greetings from Cochabamba!
What is the cost of a human soul?
This was the question asked of me, and all of those in that church service that morning. What would we be willing to give, what would be willing to deny ourselves of, where would we be willing to venture? Would we be willing to humble ourselves and do whatever it took to reach out to someone who had not experienced the love of Christ?
The pastor had asked himself that very question that week as he had seen a group of punk teenagers, and he wondered who was reaching out to this group whose main philosophy is to be anti-establishment. He asked himself, would I be willing to dye my remaining hair purple, pierce and tattoo myself and dress in a style completely opposite of the cargo pants and Teva sandals that I was wearing that day? Would I be willing to enter into their world to show them the love that Christ has for them? His quietly sincere answer of 'yes' made an impact on me that has lasted these many years.
I think we'd all like our honest answer to be, "whatever it takes." However, the unfortunate reality of running programs for children in need is the constant necessity to calculate the cost. Not only must we calculate the cost of providing the basics like food and shelter, but even the cost of love, as we figure how we're going to pay all the staff who take such good care of our kids.
Many of us are being forced to look at each and every cost as we go into a worldwide recession. Discretionary funds are rapidly disappearing. When we look at our budgets, it is the "extra" expenses that are first to be cut.
It is our sincere hope that your giving to Niños con Valor not be something you consider "extra". It has always been, and continues to be, our hope, that our supporters feel a part of our NCV family. In these tough times, we ask that you remember that each and every dollar that you invest offers not just food and shelter, but hope, healing, worth, and love to children who have no one else but us (an "us" that includes "you"). On our end, we have been cutting costs to keep our overall budget down, but even with these, giving is falling short.
In these times, I frequently find myself referring back to Paul's challenge in 2 Corinthians, chapter 8, where he challenges the church to excel in giving. I encourage you to read the entire passage, but I will share with you part I feel the most pertinent for what we are facing in these present times:
It doesn't matter how much you have. What matters is how much you are willing to give from what you have.
I am not trying to make life easier for others by making life harder for you. But it is only fair for you to share with them when you have so much, and they have so little. Later, when they have more than enough, and you are in need, they can share with you. Then everyone will have a fair share, just as the Scriptures say, "Those who gathered too much had nothing left. Those who gathered only a little had all they needed." (CEV)
Any of our regular supporters, short-term team members and volunteers can attest, that though they have given and continue to give greatly, they have received in abundance that which our children, families and staff have to give as well, and all involved are enriched by the experience.
If you would like to donate to any of our projects, or are interested in volunteering with us on a long or short term basis, visit our website at www.ninosconvalor.org.
As with any pilot project, there is a learn-as-you-go process to it, and much learning we have done! It's been exciting; we're seeing so many great things come out of this venture into providing services and care for children affected by and living with HIV/AIDS. We've been able to reach out further into the community and begin working with other HIV/AIDS support groups and service providers. We/ve also learned much more about the families already enrolled in our daycare, their unique needs, and we've been doing some planning to be able to help them more effectively.
Our volunteer, Kim, has been most impressed with the development of our little Santiago. In just a few short months he has gone from a weak underweight baby to one who now has a very good appetite and can crawl and push himself up into a sitting position. He even has a cute double chin!
Through these relationships, as well as our continued work with the departmental social services, we realized that our timeline for expanding PDC was not going to work out as we originally had planned. We are pushing up the timeline, and we are excited to announce that we will be expanding Pedacito de Cielo to include an orphanage for those who have lost their parent(s) due to HIV/AIDS or who carry the virus and have been abandoned by their families.
In the next couple weeks, we will be making the necessary changes to our facility to make it work both as an orphanage and daycare, so that the most vulnerable in our community will have a safe, healthy, and discrimination-free environment in which to live and grow.
As we expand the project, our budget will be expanding too, though we have tried to keep this increase to a minimum. The entire project has been an act in faith, and we continue in that movement of faith as we trust that our additional needs will be met.
The children living at PDC will become part of our Child Sponsorship program, and you can invest in one of these precious lives by becoming a sponsor for $40/mo. Or, you, your church, civic organization, mom's group, business, etc. could decide to fully sponsor a child for $280/mo. Click here to become a sponsor today.
We are also in need of one-time donations to complete the orphanage section of our home. If you would like to make a donation, please click here to go to our secure giving site.
In an effort to provide more economic stability to our daycare families, we are going to start providing microloans to them. Our families are often struggling financially because they lack seed money to be able to start up their own business, or because of illness, they are unable to work consistently and have times when they are unable to provide for their families. While groups exist that provide loans to families in need in Bolivia, the families are hesitant to involve themselves with groups not specifically working with the HIV/AIDS community. These microloans are intended to solve these issues, while maintaining their dignity and self-esteem. Our goal is to make this program self-sustaining, as they pay their loans back, we can then invest in others. Please visit our site here to be able to invest in the future of these families.
Thank you in advance for joining with us and supporting us as we continue to help improve the lives of these children. We would not be able to do any of the work we do with you!
The process of deciding to expand Pedacito de Cielo to include an orphanage, caused us to realize that we need to see a shift in all of our outreaches to be primarily focused on providing excellent care and services, while providing an opportunity to integrate these children affected by and living with HIV/AIDS into a healthy and discrimination-free environment.
As we ready some of our girls to possibly live with family members over the next few months, we will be looking at how we can integrate these other children who are often left with no one willing to care for them, or are ostracized within large facilities that are unable to meet their needs into our home. Thus, Corazón del Pastor will be transitioning into an intentional home of integration for girls living with HIV.
As the beginning of the school year nears, it can only mean one thing- MODA LOCA!!!!
Our third annual Moda Loca (crazy fashion show) has brought out the wackiness in us all. This event always has us in stitches as girls and staff alike break out their creativity and come up with some really wild stuff, even our team got into it this year.
During this time we are strategizing and refining our program to fit within our focus of reaching the street population with information and services regarding HIV/AIDS in a manner in which they will be willing to not only receive the information, but put it into practice.
While the government and other groups are active in providing information on transmission and prevention of HIV/AIDS, they are unfortunately not reaching the largest at-risk population, street children and adults (this article argues the high risk street youth in Cochabamba are at for the transmission of HIV). Our goal is to give them the accurate information about the virus, encourage them to get tested so they can know their status, and to provide them with needed services and support if they are positive.
We already know that there are some street mothers with their children who are HIV+ and are not receiving services or treatment. We will be working with them to get those much needed services, but also provide them a place for their children to be cared for with their specific needs in mind.
This outreach is always in need of much prayer as the street population is very difficult to work with due to the transient nature of their lives, combined with the frequent abuse of alcohol and drugs. Keeping appointments, doing follow-ups, and monitoring medications is extremely challenging, but necessary.
Continuing with our efforts at befriending communities in need, with the long-term hopes of being able to invest in ways that will better living conditions for their families, we visited two communities since we last wrote - San Juan de Dios and Kaluyo. San Juan de Dios is at the foot of the mountains that surround Cochabamba, Kaluyo is a 4 hour trip over the mountains, passing over a high point of 4300 metres (14108 feet)!
We are currently looking into the possiblity of installing a community greenhouse and solar oven in Kaluyo, with the hope of training the people in these simple technologies, and seeing them repeated in individual family homes. During our visits, we provided a hot breakfast, gave out toys to the children, and bags of non-perishables to the most needy families. As pictures speak much more effectively than words in trying to describe the scenery and the children, below are photos of the two events. More photos are available at our online photo gallery.
San Juan de Dios
Staff, Volunteers, and Teams Update
Earlier this month we had an all-staff and board member retreat at Casa Campestre, a lovely convention center and resort. As NCV has grown rather quickly, we realized the need for all the staff working in the different areas of the organization to get to know one another. We had a good time of learning more about one another, recognizing our individual strengths while learning how to work better as a team, and as in any good Bolivian get- together, there was soccer and lots of good food. Not only was it a fun time, it really got us refocused and energized to continue forward in the work in which we are involved.
We currently have a team with us, the Bender team from Wellesley, Ontario. They have been helping us update the downstairs of Corazón del Pastor, and it looks wonderful! They are also helping to remodel our psychologist's office, making it more inviting and therapeutic for when the girls have therapy. We are also very thankful that they are finishing up our last room in need of work, the large bedroom, at Pedacito de Cielo, just in time for the opening of the orphanage, which is a wonderful blessing.
Because of their giving, we were able to do an event with a rural community, Pukara Grande, which we had visited a month back. The community lives up in the mountains that surround Cochabamba, and the living conditions are very poor. There were over 100 kids for our event, and we were able to give baskets of staple foods to the poorest of the families, and everyone got to enjoy some lemonade and bologna sandwiches. We hope this event opens up further opportunities to engage the community and meet some of its most pressing needs.
This outreach also proved this team’s ability to be flexible and remain calm under difficult circumstances. Amy had an injury and needed several stitches in her hand, and then on the way back down the mountain, the bus broke down. Everyone handled the situation really well, and we were joking that Amy would have a souvenir that will last a lifetime!
Adriana's raspy voice belies her young age. For her 9 years she is insightful and introspective in regards to what has brought her to live with us at Corazón del Pastor, and isn't shy in asking the 'whys' of it all.
She is also very affectionate with her caretakers and volunteers and is often seen smiling about whatever little thing she finds funny. She's also quick to stomp a foot and pout in protest, but that quickly dissolves into smile too when she's given that you-know-better look.
Adriana is currently entering into grade 3. Her favorite color is pink, she loves to dance, and her dream for when she grows up is to have a motorcycle :)
*Her name has been changed to protect her privacy.
If you would like to sponsor a child like Adriana, please go to our website, www.ninosconvalor.org, and click on Sponsor a Child, where you'll learn more about the sponsorship program and have the opportunity to sign up for sponsorship.
If you do not have internet access, or would prefer to send a check, please write our US sponsorship coordinator, Leslie Cooke, at the address given below, and she will send you the sponsorship form (please be sure to include all of your contact information).
Ninos con Valor, Attn: Leslie Cooke
208 Melrose St.
Melrose, MA 02176
There are all sorts of ways to join us in serving the children of Bolivia!
With the expansion of Pedacito de Cielo, we are in desperate need of additional volunteers. Contact us if you would be interested in working with us and aren't averse to changing a diaper or two (okay, honestly it's going to be more than two, but they're so cute, you won't mind, we promise!).
We currently have openings for volunteers in all areas of the foundation! If you're wondering how you could be of service, we're pretty sure we can find a place for you here, you just have to let us know. Write our volunteer coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about volunteering opportunities by visiting our Volunteer Page.
Come as a Team!
Teams like the Bender team that is currently with us, play an important role in our work as well, providing much needed support for larger one-time projects. We have had teams paint rooms, build a playground, organize and run events for the kids such as a week of VBS - the sky is the limit! We coordinate plans with the team leader, to ensure the best possible experience for your time here in Bolivia.
To learn more about coming as a team, please visit our Team Page.
Help us Spread the Word!
This is another form of volunteering, but without the Spanish lessons and plane ticket. We need people to champion our work, whatever country they live in, to create interest in our work and help us raise funds to keep it going.
If you would be interested in helping us out in this very important way, please visit our Friend's Page.
Become a Partner!
We are a very small organization with big dreams. All the money donated to our foundation is invested directly into our projects with virtually no out-of-country administrative costs, so you can be assured that the money is getting where you want to send it.
If you, your business, the civic organization you are a part of, or your church, is interested in partnering with us financially, please visit our Give Now Page.
As we are off to an exciting start to 2009, we ask that you remember to make Niños con Valor a part of your plans! We are so grateful for our extended family outside of Bolivia, and nothing we do is possible without your support.
From all the staff and volunteers here in Cochabamba, Bolivia,
Peace and Love!