Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"Caritas Felices" in Bolivia

Written by Kessa and Ryan Scott, volunteers with Kaya Children in our Bolivian field office.

We are Kessa and Ryan Scott and have had the honor and blessing of working with Kaya for the last 4 months.  Our adventure to South America began because we both felt called to serve in South America.  God works in mysterious ways and brought us together quickly after knowing each other through our work at an Elementary school in Vancouver, Washington.  We were married on September 18th and on September 27th we were on a plane to begin our adventure.

Working at Kaya has been an experience of a lifetime.  We have had the privilege to get to know so many wonderful children and to be a part of their lives.  There are many inspiring stories to tell; about the Kaya kids and their abilities, personalities and their overwhelming resilience in the face of giant obstacles in their lives.  One of the most memorable parts of our work at Kaya included working hand-in-hand with the Bolivian school, Santa Rosa, where a majority of the kids at Kaya attend.

The first day we visited the school, we were overwhelmed.  Parents and staff alike were disgruntled.  We were discouraged to hear that there had been organized meetings and attempts to kick all of the Kaya kids out of the school because they were labeled as irresponsible and unteachable.  We saw that we had our work cut out for us. Most of the work had less to do with the kids’ actual behavior (which wasn’t nearly as terrible as reported) but more to do with changing the hearts and minds of the people working with these kiddos. To do so, we worked at opening communication and bettering relations between the school and Kaya.

We began by listening to the concerns of the parents, administration and teachers alike.  Just being able to voice their concerns began to open up doors for mutual understanding and a commitment to working together.  We also were given the task of turning around the 3rd grade classes.  We implemented a positive behavior system called “Carita Feliz” (Happy Face) which continually rewarded kids for being respectful, responsible, and hard-working.  Within a week, the Bolivian teachers took over the system and the classes’ behavior drastically improved.  We were very proud of them!

We also implemented a separate program for the students at Santa Rosa who are also part of the residential program at Kaya. This system was comprised of communication notebooks that the kids were responsible for filling out and getting signed off by their teachers. The notebooks communicated to Kaya: the homework for each class, if the homework was completed in Kaya Center, and the overall behavior of the kid.

On our last day at Santa Rosa we had a meeting with all the teachers and administration.  Although the concerns were still alive, the staff had noted that the kids were significantly improving.  But the most exciting part of this meeting was the fact that we were all in a meeting together, discussing Kaya kids and how to best serve them. What a blessing and a testament to God working to change hearts.  The conversation went from, “How can we get these kids out of classrooms” to “How can we work together to help these kids.”  God is good!

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