Niños con Valor E-Newsletter: Friday, May 30, 2008
Greetings from Cochabamba!
This month, we are offering our newsletter in two formats, both in html and in a printable pdf document. If you would like to help us spread the word of our work, please consider having some printed out and distributed to friends, family, or groups you may be a part of. The link for the pdf document is: http://www.ninosconvalor.org/newsletters/year III spring 08.pdf (1.39 MB)
Peace in Christ,
Director of Communications, Niños con Valor
"Like Any Other Child"
Our hearts had already been touched by the need here in Bolivia for programs for children living with HIV/AIDS. Our heads were spinning with possibilities as we sat in our planning meetings, wondering where we should begin first. It seems when confronting such an overwhelming issue as HIV/AIDS, that instead of moving ahead in action, we can be discouraged and immobilized by the multi-layered issue where when one layer is pulled back and another more complicated and difficult one is revealed.
The starting point became clear after being moved by the situation of one of our staff. Both Emma* and her daughter, Ana*, are HIV- positive, and have already overcome so much to be where they are today. In Bolivia there is still much ignorance and discrimination against those living with HIV/AIDS, even within the educational/social service and medical communities. So when Emma felt that she should share with her daughter’s daycare that her daughter was HIV-positive, she came against intense discrimination and was asked not to return. She was not able to find a daycare center that would allow Ana to attend, and so arranged for private care for her daughter.
Emma came against this same discrimination a few years later when it was time for Ana to attend kindergarten. She was turned away from a number of schools, even being told that she must be a prostitute, because they were the only ones who had AIDS. She endured this abuse because she was willing to be upfront about her daughter’s medical condition and was doing what she felt was in the best interest of her child.
Her initial response was, “I felt badly about myself. I was filled with rage, and even hated myself because I had this same sickness.” She felt like it was her fault that her daughter was going through all of this rejection, because she had passed the virus on to her.
Thankfully, Emma is not a quitter, and anybody who has met her, immediately senses her self-determination and inner-strength. She sought out justice. She went to the authorities who should be able to rectify this situation. She instead got the run-around with each office pawning her situation off as someone else’s responsibility. She finally got a straight answer- the officials could force a school to accept Ana because it was technically against the law to discriminate against those with HIV/AIDS. However, they warned that she would be treated badly and would be rejected by everyone at her pre-school. She would not accept that as good enough for her daughter.
By working with our tenacious president, Jackie, and another organization Proyecto Tucan, they were able to find a kindergarten that would accept Ana, and Emma reports that she and Ana are both very happy with the new school. Emma is especially happy because she sees Ana enjoying school “like any other child”.
While we are thrilled to see how happy both Ana and Emma are, their story speaks to the impediments that people living with HIV/AIDS face everyday here. Even though there are laws that are supposed to protect against discrimination, these laws are essentially powerless until the hearts and minds of the people are changed in how they view people living with the virus.
Niños con Valor has decided to address the immediate need of a daycare center/orphanage for children affected by HIV/AIDS. We have been able to partner with Vivo en Positivo, a local HIV/AIDS advocacy group, to more effectively work towards educating the public about the truth of HIV/AIDS and to decrease instances of discrimination.
Many of those living with HIV/AIDS in Cochabamba also come from low-income households and have little resources at their disposal. Niños con Valor seeks to change that by not only providing appropriate care for their children, but we also seek to equip the parents with education, resources, counseling, and economic assistance when needed due to complications of the virus.
We are witness to the happiness of Ana and her ability to feel like she’s just like any other child, and we’re looking forward to offering the same opportunity to many more children in the near future.
* Names have been changed.
We would like to thank Emma* for her willingness to share her story with us and our supporters, in the hopes that we will be able to help other HIV+ mothers who continue to struggle to find adequate care for their children in a discrimination-free environment. Please consider responding generously and helping others like Ana.
We have a web site that is in construction for the daycare where you can learn more and find out how you can invest: www.ninosconvalor.org/nvvs/.
With 22 girls now, we’ve reached well beyond our planned capacity, but the girls continue to flourish. We’ve added to our staffing to continue to provide high-quality care to the girls, and are pleased with the way the new schedule is working. In our commitment to placing children in families when possible, we are working with social services to submit adoption papers for two of the girls, and there is a family reunification plan for three of our sisters in the near future.
This month, the theater group our girls are a part of, run by volunteer Annika Vargas, presented its first show ever (see photo at top of newsletter). It was a huge success and their audience is eagerly awaiting their next production!
We’ve recently expanded our street outreach to another area in the city and now have a stronger, more frequent presence in both areas. Our vision for incorporating former street children as peer educators into our program has made its first steps as we work with one of our young mothers. She has been a valuable resource, providing us with good information and connections, as well as lending us credibility with the street population. We are excited at the prospective growth of this area of our program. We’ve also begun collecting data on the street children in a more organized systematic fashion in hopes being able to better piece together their histories and track their migration from one area to the next.
We have partnered with Vivo en Positivo, a network that seeks to empower those living with HIV/AIDS, as well as work with the government and the public to increase awareness and knowledge of the facts regarding HIV/AIDS, and in turn reduce discrimination against those whom live with the virus. Together, we are slated to open the first daycare center, Pedacito de Cielo (Little Piece of Heaven), designed specifically for children affected by HIV/AIDS in Bolivia in November 2008.
Below are some photos of where Pedacito de Cielo will operate. It is a huge blessing that we have found a house available for rent that has been running as a daycare, as much of the infrastructure is already in place.
Diana* is a spunky six year old who loves the attention of adults and her peers alike. She is an outgoing child who enjoys putting on shows of singing and dancing with her housemates, and thrives with creative play, such as painting and dress-up (.
She is always full of energy and has an inquisitive nature, which, much to the staff’s displeasure, has included carrying bugs in her pockets. She is also very good at playing soccer despite her slight build.
Diana is a kind-hearted child who likes to help out around the home. She also loves animals and hopes to be a veterinarian when she grows up.
*Her name has been changed to protect her privacy.
If you would like to sponsor a child like Diana, 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, 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
While our board of directors and paid staff are all Bolivian nationals, we rely heavily on the experiences and investment of our short- and long-term volunteers. Below are some positions that we are currently seeking. Both men and women, as well as couples and families are invited to consider applying.
Please click the link to read more details. If you are interested in volunteering, please write our volunteer coordinator Ana Carolina: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Help us Launch Pedacito de Cielo!
As October/November approaches and we prepare to open our daycare/orphanage for babies and children affected by HIV/AIDS, we are realizing the importance of this center more and more, and are anticipating the need to accept more children than we have funding for sooner than later.
Please consider donating monthly to help us cover the staffing costs as well as regular expenses such as diapers, formula, and medicines.
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