Thursday, March 22, 2012

Meet Our Staff: Franz and Griselda

Written by Katherine Chiu, a volunteer with Kaya in Bolivia.

As Kaya house parents, Franz and Griselda have the unique experience of seeing the children in the residential program grow day by day. They live and work in Kaya’s Renacer home, where they take care of 10 boys ranging from seven to 12 years old. The boys call them tio and tia, or “aunt and uncle.” Here the couple shares their experiences working with the Renacer boys—their challenges, their proud moments, and their hopes for the boys’ futures.

Have you both always worked with children?

Franz: Yes, we have. We actually met each other because we were working with different children’s programs associated with the same church.

Griselda: Ten days after we got married, we moved to Sucre [a city in central Bolivia] to begin working together at a children's home. We each were in charge of 50 to 60 children.

With that background, how did it compare to when you first started working with the Renacer boys?

Griselda: It was challenging. Despite the fact that we are working with fewer children now than we have in the past, these boys come from extreme poverty and from very troubled families.

Franz: A few would be aggressive towards us. You see it most in the boys who have experienced abuse.

How did you approach working with them?

Franz: We knew we had to build trust with them, which we have been able to start doing over time. They began to see that we don’t use violence when we need to discipline them; we talk with them and explain what is the difference between right and wrong behavior. We read passages from the Bible with them, and we try to show them movies with values rather than movies with violence. Don Bosco [a movie about an Italian who dedicated his life to working with street children] is a good one. They all really liked that since they could relate to the children in it.

Do you two have similar parenting styles in the Renacer house?

Franz: I am more tranquilo [calm], and Griselda is more estricto [strict]. It’s a good balance.

Griselda: It’s a partnership, as it is between any two parents. I see when two boys are fighting, for example, and will tell them not to fight. Franz is good at talking to them afterwards, he will sit with them and tell them why one shouldn’t fight.

Since your work happens at home, what are your hours like?

Griselda: We are up at 6 a.m. for a house wake-up call. Usually we are in bed around 10 p.m. after we have put all the boys to bed. In the past if one of the boys has had unfinished homework, we would stay up late with them until they finished, sometimes until midnight or 1 in the morning. We never go to bed without them finishing their homework.

Franz: We don’t always sleep through the night. A few of the boys are afraid of the dark and have trouble sleeping at night. You see it in the boys who had violent fathers. When this happens we stay up with them and pray with them. We tell them that they don’t need to be afraid because God is with them.

What accomplishments are you most proud of, in your time with Kaya?

Franz: The changes we’ve seen in the boys.

Griselda: Some of the chiquititos [little ones] weren’t reading or writing when we first came, and now some of them are starting to read and write. The older boys finish their homework every day now. The boys have also become more stable, responsible and respectful towards each other and us. Beymar, for example. We were both standing in the kitchen the other day, and we both said to each other, Beymar has changed.

Franz: He used to challenge everything we said. He would say, “Why should I?” when we told him to do his homework. He was little, but he would hold his fists up and challenge me to fight. Now we joke about this and shadowbox with each other. Every day he runs to show us that he’s finished his homework before he goes outside to play.

Griselda: Sometimes you don’t see it, because we are with them 24/7. But when we step back and think about what changes we’ve seen, we can really see them in each of the boys.

We also recently started teaching the older boys in Kaya's Renacer house how to cook.

Really! Are they good at it?

Griselda: Yes, they can make a few dishes all by themselves—I stay in the kitchen with them and give them guidance, but that’s it!

Do they have a specialty?

Griselda: Chorrellana. [A traditional Bolivian recipe; see here]

That is an accomplishment to be proud of. And what is the most challenging aspect of your work?

Griselda: We can’t just tell them how to behave; we have to set the example. We can't just tell them, “don't lie,” “don't fight.” We have to set the example, in how we treat each other and how we treat them.

Franz: Building trust with the boys is still the main challenge. It's an ongoing process. It doesn’t all happen in one day, but we are making progress, poco a poco.

What kind of progress do you hope to make with the boys during your second year with them?

Griselda: Some of them hopefully will be able to reunite with their families, and we want to prepare them to be ready to adjust. Others, it looks like because of their family circumstances, they will be staying with us permanently. For them, we hope they can become more and more stable and adjusted to their new home at Kaya.

Franz: We want to continue to help them improve their relationships with God. We also will continue to help them focus on their studies. I always tell them they need to have higher goals. Graduating from high school is good, but maybe one would like to be an engineer, another a doctor. We encourage them to make these goals, and we help them think about what they will need to do to get there.

As you know, Kaya Children has many supporters in the United States. They support your work from afar, but most have not had the chance to visit Kaya in Bolivia in person. What would you like to tell them?

Griselda: That the job is difficult, but it's worth it. Knowing that I can change even just one life gives me the passion for this work.

Franz: There is a verse from the bible, “Know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” This is a phrase we keep close to our hearts, and that we remind of the boys of as well, whenever we run into challenges that may feel overwhelming….Are there Christians in the United States?


Franz: Please ask them to pray for us, for all the children and staff at Kaya, and to keep us in their thoughts. We pray for them and keep them in our thoughts too.

Thank You For Helping Me Change

Written by Katherine Chiu, a volunteer with Kaya Children in Bolivia.

Twelve-year-old Beymar easily comes across as your typical adolescent boy. “Nada,” he'll reply when asked about his favorite subjects in school, before proceeding to list a mouthful: math, language, science, social studies, music. His face lights up as he emphasizes the last—he’d like to learn to play the drums someday. “Nada, Beymar? You listed practically every subject!” “I guess so,” he'll say.

Underneath this practiced indifference is a cautious attitude towards his academic accomplishments. Beymar is in fifth grade; he knows he is two years behind. But three years ago when he moved in to Kaya's Renacer house, Beymar hadn't yet learned how to read or write.

Before Kaya, Beymar lived with his parents, his mother working in kitchens and earning five bolivianos (about 70 cents) a day. Escalating family problems forced him and his siblings to move in with his aunt, until she could no longer care for them between her poor health and limited financial resources. Throughout this time, Beymar skipped school, sometimes for weeks at a time. At seven, he started hanging out on the streets with a group of older kids, sometimes stealing alongside them for money.

On his ninth birthday, Beymar’s life slowly began to change when he moved in to Kaya. At first he couldn't sleep at night. "I was scared; I would hear knocking on the window," he remembers. But with time, even those nights became surmountable. “The tios (Kaya house parents Franz and Griselda) stayed up and prayed with me. I’m not scared anymore because God has helped me."

Nighttime was one thing. During the day, Franz recalls, “Beymar used to challenge everything we said. He would say 'Why should I?' when we told him to do his homework. He was little, but he would hold his fists up and challenge me to fight.” In the past year, though, Franz has noticed Beymar’s changes: “Now we joke around and shadowbox with each other. Every day he runs to show us that he’s finished his homework before he goes outside to play.”

A stable home with Kaya helped Beymar overcome his night fears and get back on track at school, but he is especially proud of how he has changed his behavior. "Aaaaaantes!" he says of the time when he used to "escape" from school, and when he used to steal: in the past, in a different childhood. "Without Kaya," he reflects, "I would be on the street."

This past Christmas, the residents and tios of the Kaya houses gathered under one roof to celebrate with a traditional Bolivian dinner. When the tios asked if anyone would like to say a few words, Beymar stood up. Facing his Kaya family, he kept it brief, in typical Beymar fashion: "Thank you for helping me change." Beymar, thank you for letting us into your life.

Hairdresser in the Making!

Ericka is a sixteen year old girl who has been with Kaya Children for over two years. She was one of the first girls to come to Kaya when we opened the doors to the Kaya Center. Back then, she was at high risk of becoming a full-time street child because she was constantly leaving home to work, effectively dropping out of school for many years. Since she started coming to Kaya, she has been able to regularly attend school. She is now in the seventh grade. Even though she is still currently three school years behind her peers of the same age, her hard work and dedication have allowed her to experience great academic achievement.

Ericka is also studying under a program called CEMA, which allows students to take a two-year management course. She is working towards becoming a hairdresser, attending classes at the Berlin Institute in which she learns different techniques for braiding and cutting hair. She practices these skills – mostly just the hair braiding – with her friends at Kaya. The girls love having Ericka try out new hair styles on them! Ericka is very happy with this opportunity and hopes to work in a beauty salon in a few years.

Ericka attended these classes at the Berlin Institute for three hours every morning for the past three months. She graduates from the program in a couple weeks and looks forward to also specializing in makeup and nails. She continues to attend school in the afternoons. Even though she is excited at the prospect of working once she is licensed as a hairdresser, she plans on staying in school until she graduates from high school.

In her free time, Ericka loves to listen to music! She likes romantic music, and her favorite singer is Pipe El Calderón. She also enjoys playing soccer and supports the team Bolivar, a national club soccer team. Ericka is a wonderful girl, with an outgoing and cheerful character, which brings a smile to all her friends faces.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Kaya's Child Sponsorship Program

Do you like hearing the stories about the everyday lives of the kids at Kaya Children? Are you a new Kaya supporter who is just beginning to learn about the work that we do? Or are you longtime supporter who has witnessed the growth and success of the first cohort of young men from our program who went on to attend university? Do you wonder how you can make an even bigger impact in the lives of the children in Bolivia?

If you answered “Yes” to any of those questions, Kaya’s new child sponsorship program is a perfect opportunity for you to partner with us in the work that we are doing in Bolivia, while getting to know the children in our program! We are so excited to launch this program and hope that you are just as excited to jump on board with us.

By sponsoring a child, you are helping us fill kids lives with people who love, care, encourage, and support them. Your sponsorship allows us to address children’s:

* PHYISCAL NEEDS such as safe housing, healthy meals, and medical care;
* SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL NEEDS such as healthy relationships, birthday celebrations, and opportunities for community involvement;
* EDUCATIONAL NEEDS such as remedial and special education, computer training, and career counseling;
* PSYCHOLOGICAL NEEDS such as counseling, crisis support, and evaluation;
* SPIRITUAL NEEDS such as faith exploration, church participation, and mentoring.

You will be joining a sponsoring team of caring people providing housing, education, medical and clinical care, love, and consistency in a family setting. There are three levels of giving:

* PADRINOS commit to $469 per month or $5,625 annually
* TIOS commit to $100 per month or $1200 annually
* AMIGOS commit to $37 per month of $444 annually

For as little as $37 per month, you can transform a child’s life. By sacrificing a fancy meal out once a month or brewing your own coffee instead of buying Starbucks every day, you will be provide a child with all the necessary support he/she needs to be able to dream big and hope for a better tomorrow. As a sponsor, you will receive annual updates on your child with a new photo, in addition to letters and a handmade Christmas from your child. This is a fantastic opportunity to get to know the faces and personalities of the children at Kaya.

Most importantly, we are a family at Kaya, and your sponsorship represents a special bond between you and your sponsored child. We cannot wait to welcome you into our family! What are you waiting for?