BOLIVIA: Girls welcomed into supportive home
Hogar Maria Auxiliadora provides shelter and education for young girls who have been abandoned
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries offer schools and social development programs across Bolivia to ensure youth have access to education and hope for a brighter future. In Cochabamba, Salesians operate Hogar Maria Auxiliadora, where young girls seek shelter and an education. The long-term residential home provides a safe, structured setting where young girls can grow into independent and self-sufficient young women. As many as 45 girls ages 2-17 live there at any given time.
Eden Gordon, a Salesian lay missioner who has served twice at Hogar Maria Auxiliadora, was determined to help one young girl who had been abandoned. Veronica arrived when she was just 6 years old, abandoned by her parents without understanding why.
Gordon knew she needed to reassure Veronica of her worth, so she played a daily game with the little girl in the weeks leading up to her move into the residence. Gordon would ask Veronica when she was coming to live at the Hogar and tell her that she was excited and waiting for her arrival. It became a happy game the two played when they spoke.
The game instilled such confidence that on the day of her move, Veronica marched in with a big grin on her face. Gordon even nicknamed her Querida, from the Spanish “to love.” Every time she hears it, Veronica understands its truth.
“Many of the girls do have families, and staff work to reunite them whenever possible,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Widespread poverty and lack of employment opportunities throughout Bolivia often mean that parents can’t afford to feed or care for their children. If reunification isn’t possible, these girls truly do grow up at the Hogar, where everyone there becomes their new family.”
Bolivia is the poorest country in South America and has the most unequal income distribution on the continent. According to the World Bank, the poverty rate was 35 percent in 2018. It is common for Bolivians to struggle to find adequate nutrition, shelter and other basic necessities. The geography of Bolivia contributes to the overwhelming poverty of its residents. Large swaths of the country remain undeveloped with a lack of roads and infrastructure.
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World Bank – Bolivia
Salesian Missions – Bolivia