Niños con Valor E-Newsletter: Sunday, November 30, 2008
Greetings from Cochabamba!
The daycare for children living with or affected by HIV/AIDS has changed quite a bit over the last month. We went through a difficult transition as two members of the initial team left and two new members were added. We have two new teachers, one who is taking on the role as the head teacher, and the other as our afternoon teacher assistant. The new women started out very quiet, but are quickly warming up and doing a great job of loving the kids that are coming every day.
Above- A few photos of the children at the daycare.
The daily challenges at the daycare include taking a two year old boy's bottle of chocolate milk away upon arrival, getting the babies to sleep in a crib by themselves, convincing the older kids that quinoa with milk for breakfast is "rico" (the catchall word for really good), encouraging the one year olds to develop their pincher grasp when they prefer to throw the food on the ground, getting the two year olds to nap, etc.
Well, it is official! Vacations have arrived for our girls at Corazón del Pastor, and there is lot of planning going on. A few of our girls have additional schooling for about a week to help them with some of the difficulties they had this year in certain subjects, then they are dividing up to join swimming, dance and other classes. In the next week, we will be decorating the home for Christmas, something all the girls love to do. We will be hanging up stockings and making cards for one another, and for our older girls, they will join us as we reach out to some poor communities outside the city, sharing food and gifts with children.
Above Left- Our younger girls posing after a performance with "Tia" Isabel.
Above Left- The final theatre performace of 2008.
Above Left- Monkeying around at the waterpark.
Above- A few of our girls at their school, dancing for their final test in gym class.
It can so difficult working with adolescents who are on, or are at risk of being on the streets as you look at certain things they do, knowing just how much they are harming themselves, yet most often we do not see a change in these actions. We see them returning to abusive relationships, not taking care of themselves when pregnant and going back to the streets after having been off them for a period of time. There is the deperation for change, yet we continue seeing the cycle repeated. But we have hope for these kids, hope that this time things will be different, and we have the unfailing love for them that will be there if they fall once again. These children are not just a project, they are our little brothers and sisters for whom we truly desire a better life - a process which may take years. Our love for them drives us on and causes us never to completely loose hope, even when things sometimes seem hopeless.
Above Left- One of the boys from "America" showing his skills with a soccer ball.
During the last month, I've been able to spend a lot of time working one-on-one with Maria*, a 20 year old girl who has been living on the streets for the past 6 years. I got to know Maria while taking her to daily clinic visits to treat a head wound. That head wound ended up being a blessing in disguise as I was able to build a friendship with Maria while spending several hours in waiting rooms on a daily basis. Maria is battling addictions to life on the streets and to drugs. So several times a week, I have her over to my house to cook lunch, do crafts, and spend some time away from the street and her abusive boyfriend. We talk, and I encourage her, and at least for a few hours, she doesn't sniff glue.
Above Left- "Maria" and another girl at Amy's house working on some crafts.
Karina is one of 4 sisters living together at Corazón del Pastor. Unlike most new arrivals, Karina arrived with a smile and has kept on smiling since. She had been separated from her sisters prior to joining us at the girls' home, so her arrival also meant a reunion with her siblings. She is a very energetic, mischievious little 4 year old, who loves to do things most girls her age do, like color, play with dolls, but also tries to join the older girls as well. She has also demonstrated a love for traditional dance, and at the recent barbeque, even before the team arrived, was dancing for a good half an hour!
Ninos con Valor, Attn: Leslie Cooke
Normally, this is the space we shamelessly talk about how great it is to volunteer with Niños con Valor and try to get more people interested in joining us. This month, we want to introduce you to the volunteers currently with us in Bolivia.
Tyson and Carolina Malo are the foundation's executive director and nutritional consultant/volunteer coordinator, respectively. They have been here since the beginnings of NCV, and have worked alongside the board of directors to dream big and see these dreams make real impact on the children we serve. They live here permanently with their 3 children, Nehemiah, Soraya and Zion.
Kimberly Setzer is the foundation's director of communications and development. Since she has come on at the beginning of 2007, we have been able to open things up to more visiting teams, start putting together our first grant proposals, and initiate our child sponsorship program. Her experience with troubled youth in the US has also brought a wealth of knowledge to the table as we work with the kids on an individual basis.
Barbara-Ann McVean is the coordinator for our Street Light outreach. Much due to her tireless investment in the kids on the streets, and the support of her Scottish organization Orkney Helping Hands, we were able to initiate Street Light at the beginning of 2007, and continue to reach out to what truly is one of the most marginalized populations here in Cochabamba.
Amy Johnson is a street light worker and also helps out at Corazón del Pastor girls' home. With a unique personality that connects naturally with the girls in both projects, she has been a huge addition to our team. At the girls home she teaches English, art and leads reflection groups with the older girls, and on the streets she has opened her heart and home to some really sweet, yet troubled, young women.
Katie Wenzel is our most recent full-time volunteer and she came in, literally, at the perfect time. She is a nurse with experience in the US working with HIV/AIDS patients among other things, and has taken on a major leadership role in Pedacito de Cielo daycare. She is heading back to the US to try and raise support to come back indefinitely (up until know she came on her own dollar), and upon return will expand her work to include working with girls from high-risk backgrounds at a clinic in the city we partner with through Street Light, and help out at the recently opened clinic in the rural community of El Abra.
Padraig Cunnane is our jack of all trades volunteer. "Podge" is a major supporter of all our projects, helps us when teams come with rennovation projects, and in general helps us out with all our special events, such as the Christmas outreaches we have coming up, camping excursions with the girls, etc. He will also be taking on some of the website upkeep.
Jessica Coudriet is currently living and volunteering half-time at Corazón del Pastor, and spends the other half of her time at Pedacito de Cielo. Sadly, Jessica is a short-term volunteer, which means she will be leaving us in March, but she has dived right in and has really helped out a ton during what has turned out to be the busiest time in our foundation's short history.
These are our current volunteers. If you are interested in joining our volunteer team in 2009, please write Ana Carolina, our volunteer coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also want to encourage you as perhaps you are considering making some year end donations, to keep our volunteers in mind. If you would like to know how you can help any one of our volunteers financially, please send an email to email@example.com.
Finally, speaking of ways to direct year-end donations - please consider making a donation to Niños con Valor in general, or one of our projects specifically. Presently, we depend almost entirely on support from generous donors from Canada, Sweden, the UK and the United States. Of course it is our hope to eventuall purchase land which will enable us to eliminate much of our rental costs and grow our own produce, right now we need your support! This Christmas, why not join us in helping put smiles on children's faces here in the city of Cochabamba? Here is an idea of how far you donation goes:
Thank you for taking the time to catch up on what is happening here in Bolivia in lives of the kids we serve. May you have a great holiday season, and find the greatest joy in the smiles of the children around you.
Much Peace and Love,
The Staff and Volunteers of Niños con Valor, Cochabamba