BOLIVIA: Volunteer shares experience
Hogar Don Bosco helps children build their future
(MissionNewswire) The Don Bosco Project in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, protects the rights of children and older youth who are at high social risk. Mónica Fernández de Bobadilla Aya, a volunteer from the Salesian Mission Office in Madrid, spent six months as a volunteer at Hogar Don Bosco, one of Don Bosco Project’s homes, helping children build their future.
Hogar Don Bosco is one of four of the project’s homes for youth in Santa Cruz de la Sierra. The program was founded in 1991 and houses 75 youth ages 5-17. They are divided into three groups and receive 24-hour care. Fernández said, “They are minors in vulnerable situations, orphans or those who have not seen their parents for a long time.”
In its 32 years of existence, Don Bosco Project has provided comprehensive care, protected children’s rights and specialized its interventions to meet the needs of youth in its care. Youth have faced abandonment, physical and psychological violence, or an unsafe family environment. A few children joined the program after living on the streets.
“When entering the house, one is struck by the happiness,” explained Fernández. “Being children with such complicated lives, the joy with which they face all situations is amazing. It’s like living in a big family with so many siblings. I prepared breakfasts, accompanied them to class, ate with them, helped them dress, organized entertainment activities, just like any other mom.”
Youth do not lack affection or attention. Fernández noted, “They eat five times a day and are surrounded by love. They have clothes, school supplies and no shortage of birthday gifts. The educators and volunteers are very attentive to them, and many benefactors also support the home. The children are learning life lessons and are an ongoing example.”
During her volunteer time, Fernández was responsible for a group of children under age 9. “It wasn’t easy to do activities with them, precisely because they were so young, but we had a lot of fun and it all helped them emotionally.”
She recalled two situations that especially touched her heart. “One of the children, because of diction problems, did not pronounce some letters well. I suggested he read aloud only with me and he never made a mistake. In a short time, he improved a lot and started coming with the other children who were waiting their turn to read aloud.”
The other situation is much more emotional for her. “Twins who were living in the Hogar Don Bosco were taken up for adoption. The first night there were many tears from the rest of the children, but after the shower and dinner, one of the children came to me and asked where they were. And right away, he answered his own question with, ‘Well, wherever they are, I’m sure they miss us.’”
The Don Bosco Project 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 access 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% 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.
ANS Photo (usage permissions and guidelines must be requested from ANS)
World Bank – Bolivia
Salesian Missions – Bolivia