Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Kaya Challenge a Success!

It has been a busy time at Kaya Children! The month of October brought us the first ever Kaya Challenge, a fundraising campaign on FirstGiving, an online fundraising site, that lasted the entire month. Inspired by the success of the Global Giving fundraising campaign we had last spring, we started to brainstorm ways that would be a simple and fun way to get people connected with Kaya Children. What we came up with was the Kaya Challenge. Through this campaign, we shared the good works that Kaya Children does by reaching out to our own networks in addition to challenging Kaya supporters to become more involved by engaging their personal networks. We are happy to say that we raised $38,462 through this campaign to support our programs and met many new friends along the way. We are so thankful for and encouraged by the tremendous support everyone has shown and hope that you all continue to help us serve the children of Bolivia.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

31 Days 31 Faces: Nicolas

Meet Nicolas, a sixteen year old boy at Kaya Children. His favorite subject at school is math, and he loves eating fruit. In his free time, he enjoys swimming, watching TV, and playing soccer. He hopes to one day become a professional soccer player, just like Victor Valdes, the goalkeeper for Barcelona.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

31 Days 31 Faces: Antonio

Meet Antonio, a nine year old boy at Kaya Children. He loves studying and learning new things. When he is not studying, he enjoys playing soccer, basketball, and baseball. He hopes to become a professional ball player one day -- the game does not matter as much. His favorite food is chicken.

Friday, October 29, 2010

31 Days 31 Faces: Juan

Meet Juan, a twelve year old boy at Kaya Children. His favorite subject in school is Math, and he particularly enjoys addition and multiplication. He loves listening to music in his free time. He hopes to own his own business someday.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

31 Days 31 Faces: Cesar

Meet Cesar, an eighteen year old boy at Kaya Children. His favorite part of the Kaya Center is its library and his favorite classes at school are history and literature. In his free time, he likes to listen to music, play sports, and read. His dream is to become a musician.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

31 Days 31 Faces: Erika

Meet Erika, a thirteen year old girl at Kaya Children. She enjoys learning about the social sciences at school and hopes to be a psychologist when she grows up. In her free time, she likes playing soccer, doing crafts, and listening to music. Her favorite foods are chicken and majadito.

Photo: Erika (right) with another girl at Kaya.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

31 Days 31 Faces: Fidel

Meet Fidel, a fifteen year old at Kaya Children. He enjoys studying math at school and learning how to use the computers. In his free time, he likes to play soccer, listen to music, and take walks. His favorite foods are local food in La Paz and pork roast. He wants to become a doctor in the future.

Monday, October 25, 2010

31 Days 31 Faces: Juan Daniel

Meet Juan Daniel, an eighteen year old boy at Kaya Children. He loves learning psychology and would like to be a psychologist if he were not already studying to become a chef. His passion for cooking has inspired his goal of opening his own restaurant. His favorite food is lasagna. He also enjoys playing soccer and meeting new people.

Friday, October 22, 2010

31 Days 31 Faces: Jorge

Meet Jorge, a nine year old boy at Kaya Children. He loves playing soccer and basketball. His favorite foods are chicken and chicharon de pollo. He wants to study hard so that he can be a professional in the future.

Photo: Jorge (right) and Adrian (left).

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

31 Days 31 Faces: Rafael

Written by Anne-Milda Pu, a volunteer who worked with Kaya Children in Bolivia the past two summers.

Going down to Bolivia to visit Kaya Children for a second time last summer, I sort of knew what to expect—the temperature is cold at night and warm during the day, the air is very thin, the sidewalks are busy but the streets are busier, and the people speak too fast. Yes, I knew the factual aspects but I realized that I had forgotten so much of what pulled me back to Bolivia in the first place. I had forgotten about the care that these kids share for one another and for their genuine love of life and their Kaya family.

While I was mainly painting their new school building a mural during the week I was there, I was able to spend two mornings with the kids. The morning I spent with the kids from Hogar Renacer brought back all my memories of what I had forgotten. I remember thinking that these kids really knew how to live their life. They weren’t stuck behind computer screens like so many kids their age are, but they were playing in their yard, they were doing their chores, they were playing marbles with the other boys there.

One of the boys I remembered from the year before was a boy named Rafael. Josh Lee (one of my teammates) was going to take pictures of their faces for the 31 Days 31 Faces interview so after we interviewed them he would snap a picture of them. Well, Rafael disappeared for a little while and when he came back, he was wearing a clean collared shirt, a nice pair of pants, had newly combed hair, and was shining his shoes! I thought it was so precious that he wanted to look his best from head to toe for a picture that was only going to feature his head. It breaks my heart to know that so many people label street kids as thieves and drug addicts because they haven’t even taken a week out of their busy lives to meet these kids. It amazes me that these kids who have had a past that is more difficult than I could ever imagine have completely turned their lives around and come this far.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

31 Days 31 Faces: Marco

Meet Marco, a twelve year old boy at Kaya Children. His favorite activities are soccer, baseball, and basketball. He hopes to become a professional football player when he is older, and he admires Messi because Messi is a fantastic soccer player.

Photo: Eddie (left) and Marco (right).

Monday, October 18, 2010

31 Days 31 Faces: Adrian

Meet Adrian, a nine year old boy at Kaya Children. His favorite foods are copacabana chicken and sausage sandwiches. He loves playing soccer, going swimming at the pool, and rollerblading. He wants to be a carpenter when he grows up.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

31 Days 31 Faces: Javier Jesus

Meet Javier Jesus, a twelve year old boy at Kaya Children. He loves learning new things in school. His favorite activities are watching TV and playing soccer. He hopes to be a professional soccer player someday. He admires Team Bolivar, a professional soccer team, because they have the best players.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

31 Days 31 Faces: Julio

Meet Julio, a fourteen year old boy at Kaya Children. He likes Kaya because he is able to live in a house and be with his friends. His one wish is to be with his family. His favorite activities are playing soccer, volleyball, and basketball.

Friday, October 15, 2010

31 Days 31 Faces: Beymar

Meet Beymar, a ten year old boy at Kaya Children. He enjoys learning at school and likes doing homework. He also likes to play soccer, basketball, and video games and likes to listen to music. His favorite food is fish. He admires his older brother because he thinks that his older brother is a very good brother to him.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

31 Days 31 Faces: Milton

Meet Milton, a fifteen year old boy at Kaya Children. He likes playing baseball, basketball, and soccer. He hopes to become a professional soccer goalie one day and admires the Argentinian professional soccer player, Messi, because he is great at handling the ball on the field. His favorite foods are pork and chicken. He enjoys dancing.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

31 Days 31 Faces: Omar

Written by Eunice Lim, a volunteer who worked with Kaya Children down in Bolivia two years ago.

Omar’s first day at Kaya’s school was also my first day volunteering in Bolivia at Kaya, but I didn’t know that then. All I knew was that there was this little 8 year old boy who had the most adorable little face but also worked up a storm, never listening to his teachers and calling me “China” (Chinese girl) no matter how many times he got scolded for it.

“Me llamo Eunice, y soy koreana!”

(My name is Eunice, and I’m Korean!)


(Chinese girl!)

Sigh. Would he EVER learn?

Only a week later, I was in love with him, writing in my journal:

“omar. oh, omar!! the newest addition to kaya, he’s only been around for a week, like me. the youngest boy of only 8 years old. he. is. SO. cute. TOO CUTE. for some reason his little face is always so dry, i’ve gotten into a habit of putting lotion on his face every morning. “oOooOo” he squeals each time, squirming with joy as i put it on. has anyone ever put lotion on his little face before? as adorable as this boy is on the outside… oh!! how much he tests my limits, and does NOT listen to his teachers. but whenever i get angry with him... he gives me this adorable smile, and envelops me in one of the warmest hugs ever. how can i be angry with this tiny boy who was living on the streets just a week ago? whose first instinct is to fight, because that’s how you survive? who does not know respect or rules because he’s never been taught? i can’t. oh, omar . this same rowdy boy has fallen in love with the songs of praise that i have taught the children. when I start singing songs even during break time, he sings along with me, holding my hand, memorizing the words better than most of the other older kids. omar. how did you dig so deep into my heart?”

I was in Bolivia for a month. Within one month, I saw a boy change from an unruly brat to… one who still struggled with anger and sharing and listening, but one that showed me how capable he was of loving, and how much he simply wanted to be loved. When another new boy joined and started to call me “China,” Omar yelled at him, telling him it was rude and that my name was Eunice. He learned all the Christian songs I taught the kids, and sang praises to God on his own.

Omar… I am thankful to say that he is still at Kaya, still growing and learning exponentially. And I pray that those praise songs that he used to sing will forever ring true in his heart… and that he will grow to have a real relationship with his Savior, Jesus Christ as he grows up to be an upright man thanks to the mentors and love that he is able to receive at Kaya.

Please help us continue serving the children of Bolivia. Learn more about the Kaya Challenge:http://www.firstgiving.com/kayachildren.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

31 Days 31 Faces: Icaro Jonathan

Meet Icaro Jonathan, a thirteen year old boy at Kaya Children. He loves learning math in school. He enjoys wrestling, playing the game Jenga, and learning how to use the computer. His favorite foods are Chocapic, a chocolate-flavored cereal, and salchipapa, a dish that consists of hot dogs and french fries. He wants to be a police officer when he is older.

Monday, October 11, 2010

31 Days 31 Faces: Eddie

Meet Eddie, a thirteen year old boy at Kaya Children. He loves playing soccer and wants to be a goalie when he is older. When he is not playing soccer, he enjoys playing video games and learning how to use the internet. His favorite foods are fruits.

Friday, October 8, 2010

31 Days 31 Faces: Raul

Meet Raul, a fourteen year old boy at Kaya Chilren. He loves playing soccer because it is a lot of fun and wants to be a soccer player when he is older. He admires Carlos Tevez, an Argentinian professional soccer player. In addition to soccer, he likes to swim and play baseball. His favorite foods are chicken and fruit.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

31 Days 31 Faces: Hector

Meet Hector, a sixteen year old boy at Kaya Children. He likes having his own room, playing soccer, and swimming at the pool. His loves eating barbeque. He hopes to be a doctor someday because he wants to help people.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

31 Days 31 Faces: Wilmer

Meet Wilmer, a fifteen year old boy at Kaya Children. He has been with Kaya for three years. He favorite class in school is Physical Education, and his favorite sport is soccer. He hopes to one day become a doctor and have a family.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

31 Days 31 Faces: Daniel

Written by Stephanie Kuei, Communications Officer with Kaya Children.

“What were you doing when you were ten?”

I remember Daniel, a former street child and one of the older boys at Kaya Children whom I met while I was in Bolivia, asking me this question and feeling guilty because, at ten years old, I was ignorant of events happening in other parts of the world and was taking all my opportunities for granted.

Up until that moment, I thought I understood the challenges street children face and was able to sympathize with the children I met. However, listening to Daniel tell me the reasons why he left his family to live on the streets, the types of people he encountered, the worries he faced, and the conditions he had to endure really broke my heart. At ten years old, he slept in an abandoned building and worked late hours selling sausages on street corners.

Here was a guy who was the same age as me and who had experienced so many things that no child should ever have to experience. His question shook me up and revealed a passion for these children in me that I never fully realized.

Now, Daniel, who is twenty years old and one of four recent high school graduates at Kaya Children, is in college and is an example to the younger kids of what it means to hope for a bright future. With Kaya’s support, he has overcome countless hardships and has grown to be a man of strong character.

The question he asked me changed my perspective and made me rethink what it means to really care for this population. It made me realize what a blessing a childhood is. So I am going to ask you:

“What were you doing when you were ten?”

Please help us continue serving the children of Bolivia. Learn more about the Kaya Challenge: http://www.firstgiving.com/kayachildren.

Monday, October 4, 2010

31 Days 31 Faces: Israel

Meet Israel, a sixteen year old boy at Kaya Children. His favorite things about Kaya Children are his room, his friends, and his ability to study and get an education. He loves to read, to listen to music, and to watch TV. If he could have one wish right now, it would be to have a collection of music records because he hopes to someday become a sound engineer.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

31 Days 31 Faces: Rafael

Meet Rafael, an eleven year old boy at Kaya Children, who wants to one day become a police officer. He loves going to school, learning about computers and technology, and spending time with his classmates. His favorite activities are basketball, volleyball, and racquetball.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

31 Days 31 Faces: Omar

Meet Omar, a ten year old boy at Kaya Children. He enjoys learning, playing board games, and taking trips, such as going to the park. His favorite food is chicken, specifically salta de pollo and pollo copacabana. When he grows up, he wants to be a car driver, and he hopes to own his own car someday.

Friday, October 1, 2010

31 Days 31 Faces: Brayan

Meet Brayan, a twelve year old boy who has been at Kaya for a year and a half. He loves learning, but his favorite part of being at Kaya is the soccer court because he hopes to be the best soccer player in the world someday, just like Messi, a professional soccer player. When he is not busy perfecting his soccer skills, he likes to play volleyball and baseball. His favorite foods are chicken and hot dogs.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

31 Days 31 Faces: Launch!

The time has come for the Kaya Challenge!

All throughout the month of October, we will be updating this blog daily with a new story about the life of one of the kids at Kaya Children. We want to connect our fundraisers and supporters to the motivation behind the Kaya Challenge -- helping the children in Bolivia.

Starting Friday, October 1, be sure to check in each day to meet a new kid at Kaya!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Transforming Smiles in Bolivia

Part of a dental team from Highrock Church in Arlington, MA, Hubert Park, Tony Chyn, and Dr. Joe Lee spent the first week of July in Bolivia working to clean teeth, fill cavities, and overall to improve the smiles of many boys and girls at Kaya. While the team witnessed how a simple dental procedure could boost the confidence of a young boy, they experienced so much more.

A Bolivia Reflection by Hubert Park

One week flew by. Everyone on the team kept saying "it was more than what we had expected". It was more than just a humanitarian trip from which you come back elated, but that chapter (or page) of the book is finished and you move on. It was more than just treating the teeth of these children. It was more than just going overseas and experiencing being in another culture. We witnessed the reality of children given another chance to live the kind of life they deserve to live and the space in their heart that used to be filled with fear and despair of being out on the streets now being replaced with hope and love. Beyond the cultural and language barriers and time limitations, there was a mutual exchange of appreciation between the team members and the children at Kaya -- one thanking the other for the dental treatments while the other was genuinely and profoundly moved by the brightness of the spirit they displayed.

We also had special moments amongst the team members ourselves. The beauty of the team this year was the breadth of different generations represented, from budding, youthful high school students to a parent and overseer of the church. We had wonderful discussions and "pillow talks", ranging from very serious ones to ones we could not stop laughing. It was the perfect way to end the long, hard days of work.

On the personal level, I was humbled. Humbled by the maturity all of the children possessed and by the amazing work Chi and Kristin have been doing in all of these children's lives. One afternoon Tony and I had the chance to talk with the older kids in the waiting room outside of the dental clinic. Some of them had known Chi for five years, eight years, even eleven years!
We thank Kaya and everyone who's supported us to have this experience. We hope to return perhaps next year, we'll just have to work on our Spanish a little more next time =)

Dental Days by Tony Chyn

Logistics appetizer
The work at the dental clinic has been nonstop to meet the needs among the Kaya children. Each day begins at 9 and ends at 7. We have about 8-10 children/adolescents that have one appointment in the morning and one in the afternoon. In the morning we rent a space in a local hospital. There we do examinations and cleanings and plan for work we will do later on. In the afternoon we rent out a dental clinic where the more invasive procedures take place. We are providing care as well as teaching preventative measures to protect their teeth. The majority of the children have fair to poor dental hygiene and many have problems that required more than we were able to give. Many suffer regular pain, gum disease and rotting teeth. Our hope and prayer is that we can enable Kaya to provide dental services that can act as preventative measures for protecting these children's teeth.

Highlights main course if appetizers aren't your thing
Amidst our busy schedule, there are still too many highlights to speak of here. The native people that we've encountered in our work have been a gift from God. Our translator Marti is great, and also Andrea and Ursula, two folks we work with in the clinics, have just been amazing to work with also. Not only do we work well together but we have shared tons of laughs (most of them at my expense).

Our shared joy opened up some really great dialogue. Today we talked at length about Kaya and some of its history as well as the work they have been engaging in. An impression was made, and Marti has already been inquiring about ways she could help Kaya long term as a volunteer.

Simple dental work has also made an impression. Julio had some decay in his front teeth and quietly asked if it could be fixed. We all shared in his excitement 20 minutes later when there were as good as new thanks to tooth colored fillings. Today, Henry missed the morning exam and cleaning and came late to the afternoon clinic hoping to get an appointment. Our dentist working at the clinic was able to stay so we ushered him in. After the work was done, we showed him the final product. The gratitude on his face was unforgettable, rewarding and beyond describable words. Though we ended up being late to dinner, all of us were thankful for the experience.

Personal Note dessert if that's what you want
The feeling of privilege to be here and participate in this cannot be overstated. I am jealous of these people we call Bolivians. They are the second poorest nation in the world but many of them have a joy I do not have the right currency to buy. People here greet with a little cheek kiss (its so cool) and their warmth and welcoming spirits are truly touching. When I get back to the states that's what I want to take with me. I hope that I will have the resilience to experience the joys that God has provided, regardless of the circumstances.

"First shall be last and last shall be first." It's been an honor to rub elbows with the princes and kings of our next life. Those that this world have dismissed and society brushed aside, will be reminded by our Lord that they were never once forgotten for eternity.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

When I Go Back This Time

Last summer Anne-Milda Pu, a high school student from Lexington, MA, and her family traveled to Bolivia and met the children of Kaya. While initial expectations and hopes for the trip were to make an impact on the lives of the children there, the impressions made on her life were far greater. Upon returning to the states she has committed to helping the kids from afar--through her time, her resources, and even her artistic skills. This summer, Anne-Milda will return to the children with a team from Highrock Church, more equipped and even more enthusiastic about the new projects on her plate.

Last summer I traveled to Bolivia along with my family and a group of people from my church. The experience I had was completely life changing. Everything I saw challenged what I thought I knew and caused a passion to grow inside of my heart for helping street children. Our days consisted of touring La Paz and El Alto in the mornings and spending time at the Kaya Center in the afternoons. We taught the kids various subjects such as arts and crafts, Legos, wiffelball, and about electricity and the solar system. But amidst all the teaching we were doing, the kids taught us even more. What we learned were not facts, but rather life-long lessons. They taught us how to sincerely love life and how to make the most out of everything given to us. They taught us that knowledge is much more than reciting facts. Even though the kids had not been in school nearly as long as I have been to school, in many ways, they were so much smarter than me. They knew how to be creative and resourceful and how to be sincerely caring.

After last summer’s trip to Bolivia to visit Kaya, Kaya, and everything that the organization works for, has been on my heart. I began thinking of what I could do that would tie in my talents but that would also benefit Kaya. With that, I began painting and selling flower pots, donating all the money to Kaya. Also at my school, I became involved with in a club called Helping Our World (H.O.W). I introduced the club to Kaya and we contacted Kristin Huang asking about ways that we could help. We found out that the kids love getting mail and began writing letters to all of kids in the day program.

This July, I am looking forward to spending another week in La Paz. As last year’s trip was amazing in every way, all of this year I have been looking forward to hopefully going back. This year I believe that I will take away something even more deep and meaningful than last year. Last year, the initial fears of going to a country so different from the one that I am used to scared me. I was afraid of the altitude difference and the language barrier. I had no idea about how cold it was going to be there or what La Paz would look like. When I go back this time, I will know about how the altitude affects me, I will know that they speak Spanish very fast and I will know that, although it is in South America, it is very cold. I will be able to put these aside and focus on what I am going there to do. I will be taking Spanish classes in the mornings and then go to the Kaya Center and work with the kids there, hopefully painting a mural with them. I am so excited for this summer’s trip and hope that God moves me just as He did last year.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Running With A New Perspective

Six months ago, I ran because I felt had to. Now, when I wake up in the morning, I can’t wait to get out there and hit the pavement. What changed me was training for my first marathon, running Boston for charity. Exactly how this transformation happened is a mystery to me, but I have some ideas.

Running for Kaya, I was often struck by how much my perspective affected my behavior. Many times I was struggling with fatigue, wanting to quit, and then I thought of children living on the streets of La Paz. All of a sudden I found a source energy that I didn’t know that I had. For this reason, I recommend running for a non-profit organization. A friend of mine became enthusiastic about a certain organization, and she asked them if they would apply to be a Boston Marathon charity so she can run for them. They are in the process now of applying!

Listening to worship music while I run has become a way that I spend time with God. I used to think of my “quiet times” with my Bible on my couch as my best time with God. Now, when I plan my week and the runs that are scheduled in it, I get excited about the time I will have with God on those runs. I look forward to getting to hear the worship songs on my iPod, like “Gloria” by Watermark, “See What a Morning” by Keith and Kristyn Getty, and “Agnus Dei” by Michael W. Smith. Running in beautiful places like Fresh Pond or along the Charles River draws me even closer to Him. I love both listening to worship music on its own and running on its own, but the best is getting to do the two simultaneously.

Until this experience, I thought of running as a solitary sport. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. Both my training and the marathon itself were communal experiences for me. In fact, two of the friends who started running with me have started dating seriously and are currently on a Memorial Day weekend vacation together! The morning of the marathon, my sister flew up from Dallas, TX, eight-months pregnant. I hadn’t even asked her to come, but she just wanted to be there. I’ll never forget seeing her jumping up and down on the sidelines as I turned a corner on Heartbreak Hill.

The city of Boston came alive to me as I was running. I have never experienced Boston as being so friendly, supportive, encouraging, helpful, gracious and inspiring as I did on April 19, 2010. I connected with so many strangers that day. Jean, a qualified runner from New Hampshire whom I met on the T on the way to board the buses to Hopkinton, told me her favorite blister bandage (Hannaford brand). To me, this information was gold! I couldn’t believe how many people turned out to cheer. A friend of mine who was waiting in the crowds to see me said she was so touched watching a father explain to his daughter how important it is to help the runners. He was handing orange wedges to her so she could hold them out to us. A friendly stranger offered me a pack of “Gu” (a sports food) when I looked tired. A grandmother offered me fresh baked cookies. I wore my name taped on my shirt, and people shouted encouragement to me the entire time.

One of the joys of this experience came from overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Last fall, my knees would hurt whenever I went up and down stairs. I worried that my cartilage was wearing down or I was getting arthritis and my running days were coming to an end. After six months of strength training, I have virtually no knee pain anymore, and I run at least three times a week. One key has been not to do squats and lunges, which my podiatrist said are not good for women. I regularly hear people say that they don’t run because their knees hurt. What they may not realize is that while some people may have serious knee problems, knee pain also may go away when the muscles around the knees become stronger. Also, at times physical discomfort inhibits people from running. I found that wearing CW-X brand of running clothes helped a lot. In short, these days, there is a solution for most problems.

Now that the Boston Marathon 2010 is over, I’m setting new goals to keep my muscles from hitting a plateau. This weekend, I’m running the Rock n’ Roll half-marathon in San Diego, and I’ve set a goal time for myself. For anyone out there who is feeling inspired, the home page of Runner’s World will help you find any distance of race in any city you want to run. It’s a great way to support many organizations doing amazing work.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Changing One Life, One Attitude At a Time

Joshua Lee is a freshman at Belmont Hill School. He visited Kaya Children in Bolivia during summer of 2009, and wrote an essay about his experience for an essay contest, for which he placed second. The following is an excerpt from his essay.

My mind tunes in and out of the ensuing conversation as I shift my weight restlessly in my chair. My eyes are focused on the table before me, and I think about the people sitting around me, who have illuminated the darkness of the world their entire lives.
Suddenly, I am almost 4000 miles away in the heart of La Paz, Bolivia.

I inhale the over polluted air and shift my weight uncomfortably due to the human feces surrounding my feet, my eyes darting around, surveying the scene in front of me. My eyes lock onto a single beat-up mattress that lies on the insect-infested ground. And on this broken, overused mattress, I know that boys no older than I am will sleep here tonight. I can imagine how it will look only a few hours from now. Boys huddled together, trying to coax warmth out of each other’s malnourished bodies, rabid dogs at their sides, and police walking up to them, not to help, but to beat them and take what few possessions they have. Trucks roar past my left and right, and the sudden, sharp wall of wind brings me back to the present.

On this mattress a boy looks my way, and I try not to stare at him, but I cannot look away. I see two scars running down both sides of his cheeks. This is reality. And right now, I am truly seeing reality in front of me for the first time. I look into his eyes, and I see troubles and experiences that nobody in the world should have to go through at such a young age. Or any age for that matter. I see a boy who was kicked out of the house at a young age, and turned to drugs as an escape. Stealing was not an option, but a necessity. His hair is damp from a bath he recently took, but I would not be surprised if he was dirtier than before, seeing that he bathed in the second-dirtiest river in the world. He gets up and starts to walk across the busy street, not even looking either way. He gets to the other side all right, but I can tell that he would not have minded if he did not.

Just a week before, I was on top of the world, literally. 30,000 feet above sea level and half way around the globe – in La Paz, Bolivia – realizing that there is a world outside of my privileged private school education and my loving family and friends.

I know that there are millions of people in Bolivia, and all around the world – some of whom I had just seen a week ago – who would give anything to be in a warm house full of people who love you more than you will ever know. To be in a place where you can walk down the street without worrying about being mugged and even killed. Looking down at the crumbs from my second serving of pie, I wonder when the last time the street kids there had seen a second serving of anything.

I always hesitate calling them “street kids” though. Because the word “kids” implies a certain amount of innocence. For these “kids” innocence was lost before they had the faintest idea of what it means. At an age when I enjoyed Legos and was learning about plants, the boy on the mattress enjoyed the high of paint thinner, and was learning how to steal. People steal, mug, and kill every day to survive in a world so vastly different from our own.

So one year, a man who now attends my church, Dr. Chi Huang, went down to Bolivia and started a home for these street children. Last summer my friends and I went down to see the fruits of his labor: three fully accommodating homes where children can live and receive an education. Children from six to sixteen come into these homes and change their lives forever. These children are given another chance at life, and this year the organization, Kaya International, is sending its first group of boys, to college, where each of them will have a chance to follow their dreams. Kaya means tomorrow, and Dr. Huang, his employees, and his volunteers all strive to give these children a better tomorrow.

I am wondering why it is bad that I take some things for granted. I sit on this for a moment and replay my time in Bolivia. The memories are not of the boys I saw on the sides of the roads, some knocked out by drugs and some on their way there. They are of the people who take those same boys into their homes as often as they can to give them another chance at life. The memories are not of the scene of man-made tarps that thousands of people call home. Rather, they are of the people who visit those tarps as often as they can, bringing food for everyone, which could possibly be their only meal for a long time. I see these people, who have devoted their whole lives to helping those in need, and I recognize what their attitude is. They do not take things for granted. They appreciate what they have. Why? Because every day, when they go out and feed children, who would die without their help, they know that they could have been born right next to them on the street. But instead they were born into a privileged family, in the United States of America, in one of the best hospitals in the world, in Boston.

Dr. Huang, the founder of Kaya International, says he often wonders why he was not born like the people he serves, on the streets, left to die. He asks God why he is privileged and these people are not. He says that he knows it is because he was made to serve these people, who did not get what he did. So he does. And so I will. Because I see now why it matters that I am unappreciative about luxuries that others could not even dream about.

It comes down to my attitude. And it is my attitude that gets me to sacrifice a summer to plan, and eventually fly across the world to help that person in need. It is my attitude that will get me to make the oblivious around me aware of the truths of the world. It is this attitude that separates the “oh-that’s-too-bad” person, and the person who thinks it is so bad that they will devote their lives to make it better.

If I had to single out one person who was impacted the most by our trip to Bolivia I would choose myself. Because the work we did in Bolivia, over those two weeks, just made a drop in the bucket. And if I want to fill this bucket – of drugs, starvations, and violence in Bolivia – up, faster than it gets deeper, I will have to change my whole attitude.

This is why it matters.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Thinking of Kaya

Anna Poledňáková volunteered with Kaya in Bolivia during summer 2009. She is an economics student from the Czech Republic.

It has been already a few months since I left South America and Kaya and still, from time to time, I catch myslef singing Daddy Yankee's songs, looking for a white minibus or just going through all the memories I have.
As I said at my little good-bye party with the local staff, when I was planning my trip to Bolivia I was sure I would have a great time, but I never thougth that it would be such an amazing experience as it was. Kaya is not an organization, it is a family and I feel really grateful that I was alowed to be a part of it.
Before I entered its office in La Paz for the first time I didn't know a lot about the issue of street children and although I tried to prepare myself for the poverty and bad living conditions the experience from the street outreach in El Alto remains as one of the saddest and deepest experience of my life.

On the other hand it was wonderful to watch the progress made by Kaya concerning the kids
already settled in the organization. In spite of everything they must have gone through, they are ready to open their little hearts and accept you as a friend, to trust you and to share their dreams and doubts with you. They let you be a part of their life and bless you with boundless love and happiness.

Thinking of Kaya, there are so many beautiful moments coming to my mind. Once in the minibus on our way home from the movies I saw how one of the boys covered the another one with the blanket because he was sick. They remained ly ing next to each other like two brothers. It is difficult to describe how it feels, it is just that there was so much love in everything they did. With them even the ordinary activities like doing homework or washing clothes became something special. It was so funny watching them playing, dancing…just being kids. It felt so good to grab their tiny hands, to give them a hug or make them laugh.

I will never forget any of these moments and the awareness of a place where people gave priority to well-being of their fellowmen before their own profit, where people care about each other and love each other encourages me to be a better person and spread the positive spirit.