BOLIVIA: Homeless youth receive education, psychological support
Techo Pinardi provides educational opportunities and psychological support for homeless youth
(MissionNewswire) Techo Pinardi, part of the Don Bosco Project in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, offers a center for adolescents living on the city streets. Most of the youth who come to the center have left their homes because they suffered violence or abandonment by their parents and sought an alternative family environment. Many found themselves facing challenges and dangerous circumstances while living on the streets.
Paolo Trevisanato, the head of Techo Pinardi, said, “What we are trying to build is this welcoming family and a place of opportunity.” The center welcomes teenagers ages 13-17 and offers a family atmosphere where youth can feel free from the dangers of the street and take part in opportunities for personal improvement.
Youth are able to access psychological, social and medical intervention, learn their rights, and feel empowered. In addition to traditional education, youth also are able to participate in spiritual, sports and recreational activities.
“We give youth enough opportunities for reintegration with their families or even their extended families, such as an aunt or a grandmother. When it is not possible, we find them a suitable center to live long-term so they can focus on their education,” added Trevisanato.
One of the biggest challenges with similar shelters is that youth age out of the program at 17. The Salesian center is different in that when a youth turns 17, support is not interrupted. Youth are able to stay until they complete the program and find work.
The Don Bosco Project, which launched in November 1991, acts as a hub to help coordinate activities among several local Salesian-run programs including Hogar Don Bosco, Mano Amiga, Patio Don Bosco and Techo Pinardi. The project provides comprehensive rehabilitation and vocational training programs that bring social inclusion and meaningful employment to its students.
Every year Santa Cruz attracts youth who leave the difficult life of the rural highlands in search of new opportunities. The Don Bosco Project ensures these youth and others have access to emergency shelter, clothing and nutritious meals. The project also brings together psychologists, social workers, health care staff and teachers who work together to address the needs of almost 2,000 children who are receiving primary and secondary schooling and vocational education.
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