Niños con Valor E-Newsletter - September 2009
Care is "our responsiveness to each other, the way we live together in communities by attending to each other. Mutual care, which people give to and receive from each other, is the defining characteristic of communities." - Roy Herndon Steinhoffsmith, counsellor & theologian
Upon my recent arrival to Cochabamba, I have been gratefully overwhelmed by the the amount of care I see and experience. Canadian scholar Joan C. Tronto defines caring as "the concern of living, active humans engaged in the processes of everyday living. Care is both a practice and a disposition."
Care as practice happens in the day-to-day tasks of cooking and cleaning, helping the girls with homework at CdP, feeding and washing the little ones at PdC, listening to each other's stories, making a home for new volunteers, and the list goes on.
Care as disposition runs a little deeper. We cannot be paid or sponsored to care from the heart, for we engage with the world out of love for our communities and its people. This love is without measure. This small but resilient community at Niños con Valor has a caring disposition that keeps us bound to each other and our global community.
"Niños con Valor", or "Children with Value", means that every child we work with matters, and that they will receive our care because they are. And these children are the first ones to love us, regardless of our background, age, or skin colour.
We all suffer, we all experience joy, we all have strengths and weaknesses and we all need each other. It is in children that many of us recognize the fragility that is essential to being human. We are all fragile, but we are all loved by God, and because of this we also have the capacity to love and care for each other, in proximity and distance. It is with hope and humility that we reach out to you this month, and may these stories connect with you, wherever you are.
Ever since we at Corazón del Pastor had a training time with Tina Thomas of kidsLINK, we've really taken to heart the concept of developing a culture of training. Two weeks ago, we did a massive week long training with all of our staff at CDP. The training served to share with them our foundation's vision and mission, as well as present both new material and review previously discussed topics. We covered some very serious topics such as abuse and trauma, but also were able to do some more lighthearted yet purposeful activities to improve team dynamics.
We've also had many additions to the CDP family. While a member of the NCV staff for over two years now, Kimber Setzer has adjusted her role within the foundation to include more hands-on time assisting the staff implement the trainings, as well as helping the girls directly. We also have two additional volunteers helping out at the home, and you can read more about them in our volunteer section below. Celia Colque Choque is our newest staff member and was able to join us right at the beginning of our trainings. She is already proving to be a hard-working tia who is eager to learn and cares about our girls.
One of the ways we had the staff implement what they'd been learning all week was to do an afternoon of fun activities with the girls. Many of the activities required the girls to communicate and work together in creative ways. This was easier for some than others, but everyone involved had a good time, and an ice cream treat was a great ending to the day.
The implementation of some of the trainings has been challenging for the girls as they adjust to a more structured environment, but they are really enjoying the new behavior star chart, the more individualized time with staff, and more planned activities, and their spunky, strong characters continue to shine. We're already seeing more polite behaviors from some of the girls, which has been encouraging for all the staff to see the fruitful results of their new methods.
We are looking forward to English, Aerobics, Art and computer sessions with the volunteers and soon enough, we will be getting ready for summer vacation.
Please keep us in your prayers as we are also looking to hire another daytime tia.
CDP PHOTO GALLERY
More photos of all the girls at Corazón del Pastor can be found here.
Left - Enjoying a picnic on our special Saturday in the park.
Right - An affectionate sister moment between Jhoselin and Johana.
Left - The younger girls playing a problem-solving game with the tias.
Right - Entangled! The older group in the midst of unravelling themselves.
Left - Johana entranced by volunteer Amber's photos.
Right - Little Karina finishing off her afternoon snack, with the evidence on the ground.
Left - Paola leading an excercise with the tias during training.
Right - The tias playing 'Wounded Soldier', where the blind Tia Mariza takes the lead, and the little ones watch in wonderment.
Above - Tia Noelia with Camila, Olivia and Abigail during their special 'Cochabamba Day' school festivities.
*All names have been changed to protect the children's privacy.
We previously announced that we'd be receiving a few more new children in the next month or so, but for various reasons outside of our control, they've not been able to move to PDC. That said, we have received two new boys...
Earlier this month we welcomed 14 month old Zaquiel. We have been working for a while on having him transferred from the home he was previously living at, and we are glad to have him with us where he will be able to recieve the special attention he requires. He has a very sweet, carefree personality that we all love. Recently, he has begun to scoot backwards on his tummy! Zaquiel comes from a loving but poverty-stricken family that is, unfortunately, unable to handle the cost of his medical care. At the same time, we are working with his young mother with the hopes that, sometime in the future, they will be able to be a family again.
Then, just last Friday morning, we got a call that there was another boy who would benefit from living at PDC, and we decided we would accept him. In fact, the agency in charge of arranging the transfer of children was so eager to move him to PDC that he arrived that same day in the afternoon! Manolo is a little over 2 years old and is quite independent, although he's behind verbally. He's very social and likes being around the other children, but he's still adjusting to sharing his toys with others. Manolo came to us with very little background information so this means many tests and doctors' visits as we go through the process of building an accurate account of his medical needs. Prayers for him and us as we go through this process would be much appreciated.
Marcos and Victoria have continued to grow by leaps and bounds since they first made the transition from attending the daycare to being residents. Visits from their parents have become quite frequent, and it is having a very positive effect on the kids. Marcos is a wonderful "older brother" for the kids here at Pedacito de Cielo. He is often seen caring tenderly for Lily or allowing Miguel to follow him around. Victoria is very affectionate and her enormous, mischievous smile is worth a million words.
Every week at PDC the older kids go to the park, and we were blessed by a generous stranger last week who bought popsicles for the little ones as well as the tias and volunteers. These small and unexpected moments of generosity really do make a difference and it was hilarious to see the kids slurping and dripping and enjoying their treat.
PDC PHOTO GALLERY
More photos of all the kids at Pedacito de Cielo can be found here.
Left - Zaquiel is thrilled with his letter 'H', and with the photographer.
Right - Zaquiel smiling at his playroom surroundings.
Left - Manolo getting to know what it's like to be on camera.
Right - Manola taking a drive around the PDC playground.
Left - What a pair - brother and sister Marcos and Victoria in the playroom.
Right - Victoria cannot get enough of the park, her smile says it all.
Above - Pure popsicle joy - everyone enjoying the treat generously donated by a man at the park.
*All names have been changed to protect the children's privacy.
Unfortunately, due to the changes mentioned in our previous newsletter and the short notice upon which they arrived, we are currently unable to continue our work on the streets. This is not permament, though we are unable to say with an degree of certainty how long it will take for us to secure funding.
Please keep the project in your thoughts and prayers, as the population of street children continues to increase, and they are statistically the group at highest risk for the transmission of HIV. While there are some great groups working on the streets, no one is focusing in on this very sensitive thematic, and there remains almost no residential opportunities for girls and young women transitioning off the streets.
If you feel a push to help us reach out to these girls who are living in situations of extreme risk and abuse, please contact us so we can discuss how we can partner.
Left - Olivia's current sponsorship photo.
Right - Olivia presenting her Cochabamba knowledge to parents, caregivers and friends at her school.
Olivia is 13 years old and currently completing the 5th grade. She came to live with us at Corazón del Pastor in February of 2007. She is a quiet and caring girl who loves cooking and art and dreams of being a model and an artist. We have been able to gather little data regarding her family background, except from that which she shared herself and what we learned from a single visit we have made to her home.
Olivia lived with her family in the jungle region of Cochabamba, Chapare, with her seven siblings. Her father was a farmer and struggled with alcoholism and abusive behaviour, while her mother was generally less aggressive except during certain occasions when she got angry. After an incident that left her afraid to return home lest she be punished, Olivia decided to run away to a friend's house. She was convinced to return home, but she got off the bus in another place where she was discovered by Child Defense and taken to a home for young women in the city of Cochabamba.
Since her transfer to Corazón del Pastor in February 2007, Olivia has adapted well. She gets along well with the other girls and is doing very well in her studies. Olivia enjoys sports and she has a secret love of dancing. She enjoys being with the caregivers, reading, doing her embroidery and helping others out. She eats well, and is overall a very healthy girl.
Her biggest struggle is with her uncertain past. Whatever specifically happened, in the past two years no one has come from her family looking for her, and she is thus considered to have been abandoned. While she expresses an interest in wanting to see her family, she also makes it clear that she considers Corazón del Pastor to be her home.
*Her name has been changed to protect her privacy.
If you would like to sponsor a child like Olivia, 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
Last month was difficult with many goodbyes, but we still have an active team of volunteers, and early in September we welcomed two more.
Jeanette is 21 years old and finished her undergrad at McMaster Univiersity in Hamilton, Ontario this spring. Her hometown is Waterloo, although she has been living in Hamilton for four years. Jeanette lived in Cochabamba for four months 2 years ago volunteering with Niños con Valor, and once back in Canada her heart could not let go of the idea of returning to Cochabamba. She loves cities, kids, writing, eating and anything to do with community-building. Jeanette is thrilled to be back with Niños con Valor for the second time, working at Corazón del Pastor and with the little ones at Pedacito del Cielo.
Kelley is a 23 year old from the north shore in Massachusetts. After graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder in Art, she felt the desire to travel and need to volunteer. After a year in Zambia working with a school for AIDS orphans and a few months teaching English in Costa Rica she went back to Boston to spend some time with her family. Feeling the pull to volunteer with the people of Bolivia Kelley has arrived in Cochabamba for 8 months. She is very excited to continue work with children, art, and English as a second language while working with Niños con Valor at Corazón del Pastor and Pedacito del Cielo.
Speaking of volunteers, we thought you might be interested in reading the Summer 2009 Newsletter of "The Gathering", where Courtney Paine, one of our recent volunteers, is highlighted. The Gathering has a program called "young givers" that provides scholarships to young adults, like Courtney, and we are grateful to have been the beneficiaries of this great incentive.
Niños con Valor is always in need of volunteers with a diversity of skill sets and experiences, there are endless ways to participate with us. Too see what our volunteers our up to, you can check for their weekly blog updates here.
Left - Jeanette with Olivia at CDP.
Right - Kelley holding onto little Lily at PDC.
If you would be interested in volunteering with us in any capacity, please write Carolina at email@example.com to find out how you can be part of the Niños con Valor family.
Special Prayer Requests
We received some very frustrating news this past week as we learned about some changes in the judicial system and potentially in the adoption process in Bolivia. The only remaining family court judge here in Cochabamba announced her retirement, effective immediately. Because of the upcoming elections in December, the authorities have decided that they will not appoint any new judges until after the elections. There is a lot of bureaucracy involved in these processes, and it likely will not be until be August 2010 that new judges are appointed. This means that many of the cases will remain in limbo or will be sent to local judges, who are not trained in many of the legal processes involved in national and international adoptions. This will also affect our application process of Pedacito de Cielo as a home in addition to a daycare center.
Discussions have also been held by the Ministry of Equal Opportunity regarding international adoptions that have us very concerned. The discussion hass focused on whether or not such adoptions should be encouraged (ie, allowed) or not. IF for some reason a decision is made to freeze international adoptions, this would be difficult news for many of our precious ones at PDC who were on the verge of being available for adoption, not to mention the many other children in other homes in similar situations. While national adoptions will always remain an option, it is difficult to find parents who are willing to take children with special needs, such as our kids at PDC.
Please be praying for a positive outcome to these issues. While we are a foundation that believes strongly in returning children to their families if possible, we also believe that if that is not a viable option, these children should have every opportunity to be placed in a loving adoptive family, regardless of their home country.
Spring is here in Bolivia, and with spring comes new beginnings and growth. You cannot neglect a garden and expect it to flourish. All of human and non-human life requires attention and relationship; the kids and adolescents we work with at Niños con Valor are being attended to, and they are also attending to each other in many simple and beautiful ways.
True caring demands an active response, and that response will be different depending on our gifts and experiences. Whether your response is to pass this letter on to a friend, sponsor a child, pray, send a note of encouragement, come here and volunteer, or something different, care as action and attitude is limitless. It begins from the heart and takes us where we need to go. Thank you for caring and supporting us beyond borders.
Peace and Love from all the staff and volunteers at NCV.
Previous NCV newsletters can be found online at http://www.ninosconvalor.org/updates.html