Niños con Valor E-Newsletter: Monday, March 30, 2008
Greetings from Cochabamba!
What does it mean to help improve lives one child at a time? When our founder, Endel Liias, first chose this phrase as our foundation motto, he had already learned in less than a year of living in Cochabamba that working with children is not about the amount you invest in a program; the only way to help children make the switch from a negative lifestyle to a positive one is through an intense, individual investment of time. In a book I am reading about street families in the US, the author quotes another book by Jerry Fest which concludes that "helping a youth transition 'off the street' is about helping them make conceptual, not physical, changes" (Denfeld, Rene. All God's Children. Public Affairs: 2007, p 166). This, unfortunately, expands beyond the streets to all children who are attempting to transition from a life of brokenness to a life of fullness. To make 'conceptual' changes is not so much about money, except to pay salaries. Rather, it is about the investment of time in children and adolescents who have, for the most part, been forgotten by the society they are a part of.
Corazón del Pastor Girls' Home
Recently, the staff has taken a few measures to increase the level of care for our girls; they’ve reworked the schedule to ensure better coverage around the clock, and they’ve split up the girls’ school schedules. In Bolivia, school is only half-day, and we’ve previously had all the girls going to school at the same time. Getting 20 girls off to school at the same time is no small feat, to be sure, but now that there are some going in the mornings, others in the afternoons, the house is much calmer and there are now more opportunities for individualized attention.
Another measure we have taken is hiring an additional full-time caretaker. Having grown from 5 to 21 girls in just 1 1/2 years, and expecting a toddler in the next few weeks, we needed to change our team's routine. Lucia is joining our rotation as one of our 4 caretakers. She has been with us for a test period this month and has integrated wonderfully with the other staff as well as the girls. She has a great deal of experience and talent, and we are looking forward to working with her for a long time.
Also, this year as part of our Easter observances we led the girls in the Stations of the Cross, utilizing a book for children that helped the girls imagine what it would be like for a child to follow Jesus along his journey to Calvary. In a culture where Jesus is often times just another talisman, please continue to pray that our girls would experience Jesus in a very real and personal way.
When we opened our offices, we were excited because the space we’re renting allowed us to begin our day program for girls and women who are either at-risk for being on the streets, or for those who are wanting to get off the streets. It’s seemingly been a slow start, but we are grateful for that, as it has allowed us to rework and fine tune aspects of the program without being overwhelmed by the number of participants.
An important part of this program is that the girls are paid for their work. If they commit to full participation in the program, they receive wages for their work on a weekly basis. The norm here is to receive a salary on a monthly basis, but we found it too difficult for them to wait that long, as these girls are more used to selling candies or trinkets in the market and having those few coins immediately available to them. It’s been wonderful hearing them speak with such pride when they recount stories of telling their friends that they have a real job, seeing them gain a sense of self-worth, and planning for a future. Even in just the short time that these girls have been in the program, it’s been amazing to see how their outlook has changed, how their future plans have expanded as they realize new possibilities they never thought they’d have the opportunity to achieve.
Ana* is an often shy 11 year old girl who has a beautiful smile when it can be coaxed out of her or if you can catch her without her noticing you. She joined us at CDP, along with her two younger sisters, a year ago. In this time she has come a long way from the thin, fearful girl she was when she arrived. She’s a good student with her favorite subject being language arts. She’s also a big help around the house with the tias, and is a very responsible child. She’s quite good at soccer and Tyson has been working to nurture her artistic abilities. Ana hopes to one day be a hairstylist, and our littler girls can attest to her abilities as they run off to school with very cute hairdos.
One of our goals for this year is to open our day care center for children affected by HIV/AIDS. The need for this center is becoming more and more urgent as we hear the desperation and frustration in the voices of the people we are networking with regarding HIV/AIDS in Cochabamba, and Bolivia at large. Such a center, in fact, is the primary petition coming from HIV+ mothers groups in La Paz and Cochabamba. There is currently nothing for children affected by HIV/AIDS here, and these children are rejected from other centers when it is discovered they are HIV+. Because of a lack of options, the parents often either bring their children to work on the streets with them in an unhealthy environment or leave them at home alone. We would like to offer these children a supportive and hygenic environment in which to grow strong and healthy, but we can’t do it without your help.
One Time Needs
We’ve been quite blessed and have received some much needed donations recently such as a vacuum cleaner, cribs, and projector to use for workshops. But as with any new project, we have remaining needs as well. As we expand our workshops, we will be needing more supplies, please consider donating a kit that would help a young woman build self-esteem as well as learn a valuable trade.
We are still in need of additional funds to be able to hire our current social work intern, Angela, when her internship is completed. She has been a wonderful, and much needed, addition to our team, and as our foundation has grown, the need for a social worker has been evident. As mentioned in our last newsletter, her starting monthly salary with all its corresponding benefits will cost $300. Please consider supporting us monthly and making this possible, as her work blesses ALL of the children and young women we work with.
Finally, we are looking for volunteers and teams that would be interested in coming down with us this year. Short term volunteers generally come for 4-6 months, teams for 1-2 weeks. If you are interested, please write our volunteer coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, we will posting specific volunteer needs on our website soon.
We thank you so much for the support and prayers you have been sending our way! Please continue to help us improve lives, one child at a time.
Much Peace and Love,
The Staff and Volunteers of Niños con Valor, Cochabamba