Wednesday, July 8, 2009

At the orphanage

Some of our students have started doing service work in an orphanage here in Cochabamba. Perhaps because this is in some ways a "classic" service environment, it has sparked a great deal of interest among our students, so that several who are assigned to other service projects have also been visiting the orphanage. After only one day, I can tell that it is going to be a very successful project.

The orphanage, housed in what was once home to an upper class Bolivian family, is home to some 25 boys between the ages of 6 and 12. It is run by Amanecer, a Catholic organization that administers many homes throughout Cochabamba. Casa Nazareth, where our students are working, is a second stage home - kids coming directly from the streets first go to another home, and after a while are moved to Nazareth. Our students will be doing a variety of activities with the boys, including providing help with their homework, instruction in computers and English, and games designed to foster group dynamics, self-esteem, and interpersonal communication skills.

One of the surprising things about this orphanage is that the definition of "orphan" is a bit different, and in many ways even sadder, than our typical, Oliver Twist conception. That is because in many if not most cases, these boys actually have families. But their families are so dysfunctional - torn by alcoholism, violence, and neglect - that the boys end up on the streets, where they quickly fall into lives of crime and drug abuse (glue sniffing in particular). If they are on the streets longer than a couple of months it may already be too late, as they quickly become hooked on glue and have no desire to change their lives. So Amanacer rescues those it can, and works to reunite boys with whatever family they might possess, reinforcing that family with employment, economic and other support, in the hopes of building or rebuilding families.

This is the environment in which our students will be working and learning. Given the eagerness of the boys to work with them, their warm welcome and openness to these strange foreigners, and the enthusiasm of our students, I think it will be a rewarding experience for all concerned.


Alana C said...

This sound so amasing I wish we had it last year. Some ?s, what kind of services does amanecer provide? are the families able to visit and interact on a regulary basis? lastly whats the point of the twe house setup? hope this isnt too much DG im just super curious as well jealous lol

Daniel Goldstein said...

Alana - check out their website. They are always looking for volunteers!