Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Teaching children to understand their value

Written by: Matt Priest, Supervisor of Foster Family Services at Boys Town and Board Member for Kaya Children International

“Are you a police officer?” said the young boy.
"No,” I responded.  “Why did you think such a thing?”
Visiting a local children’s shelter, I was there to identify services for a young child who had been a victim of abuse and neglect. He had responded that he thought I was a police officer by the appearance of my shoes. My shiny black shoes reminded him of the shoes he had seen many times on the feet of police officers. This saddened me to think of the amount of times police officers had intervened in his life. Presumably so many times, that he recognized the shoes on their feet. It also saddened me to think that he identified people not by personality or relationships but by physical clothing.
Kaya's children do  not have many belongings. Their worn and tattered clothing demonstrate the difficulty and instability of street life. Kaya strives to help these children understand their value and worth. They are strong and resilient, no matter the appearance fo the shoes or clothes they may wear.
Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. -Matthew 10:31

Monday, April 22, 2013

What is favorable about street life?

Working with homeless children can be a monumental challenge. The day to day struggles that exist for survival and the bleak reality for many of these children can be draining. In society, we are so trained to identify and reward successes in our lives. According to Webster’s, success is defined as“a favorable or desired outcome.” What is favorable about street life?
We learned early on when working with the children in La Paz, that we must change our definition of success. For many US families, sending their children to college, or starting a successful career can be success. Success for Kaya’s children may be living a life without chemical dependency. Perhaps, success is going one day without cutting on one’s arms as a coping strategy. There are successes happening every day in Bolivia. Miracles.

Thank you for assisting Kaya to help these children define success in their own life.


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Four New little Faces at the Kaya Center

Little Jorge is just 7 years old and already facing an uphill battle. His father recently walked out on the family, leaving Jorge's mother to care for 6 children on her own. Already more than one year behind on rent, it is doubtful his mother will ever catch up earning less than $3 per day washing clothes. Jorge's sister had to be placed in a state run orphanage. Jorge and his older brother Juan, who is 12, were referred to Kaya by the public defenders office.

Nicol is not much older. She's only 8 years old. Two of her brothers are currently in the residential program at Kaya and the family is in financial turmoil. Her father, who is unemployed, has separated from her mother and has sent Nicol and the other children out to earn money for the family. Even more concerning is that there are indications that Nicol may have been abused. While this is under investigation, she was referred to the Kaya Center. 

Luz Maribel is growing up and is now 11 years old.  She was placed in the Kaya Center by her mother who is single,, unemployed and pregnant. Luz Maribel's mother hopes to return to work as a domestic worker soon so that she may provide for her new baby and 11 year old daughter. 

The One Thing Money Can't Buy...

Children who have lived on the streets have so many needs. The basic need for food and shelter is obvious. Medical care and education are critically needed, and so vitally important too. But to feel that they are loved, that someone out there really cares about them, is far more important to the children than anything else. Which is why we at Kaya are so grateful for all of our volunteers who make the trip to Bolivia to work face-to-face with the children, taking the time to get to know each of them as unique and wonderful individuals. There is no amount of money that can buy what the children receive from caring volunteers who give the kids what they need most of all...  LOVE!

Kaya volunteers hail from all over the globe, bringing different talents, languages, experiences and skills. Whether its playing futbol or guitar, the children truly crave quality time with caring adults. Our latest group of volunteers from Germany have truly enjoyed working with the children, and a new volunteer just arrived last month from Belgium! Since she is a psychologist, she is helping to evaluate children when they first arrive. A US volunteer, Katie Harris, is working alongside them. One of Katie's jobs at the house is to help plan the boys' birthday celebrations.

Each year, Kaya Children International runs a Vision trip in June, which departs from US soil to La Paz. So, perhaps you -- or someone you know -- might be interested in answering the call to come and work with the children of Kaya. Volunteering for such an endeavor is not just transformational for the children, but also for the volunteer. Leaving behind your comfortable world in favor of one where you will encounter poverty and loss, is not an easy thing to do. But the children whose lives you impact will return the favor with a smile, a hug, or some little phrase that will become etched forever in your mind. And if you long for the real meaning in life, many say it is found in such priceless moments.