BY ANDREW DUBOCK
Vulnerable children living in the 3,000-metre-high, mining city of Oruro are receiving more care and support from local Christians, thanks to the support of Viva’s partner network.
Light of the World Church in Oruro, central Bolivia, has been active in the city for about 40 years, growing slowly in membership.
However it has not always reached out to the community in a sustained way, and historically, the church has only worked with adults, with little interest given to children.
With the support of Viva’s partner network in Oruro, the church has re-aligned its focus and has seen the importance of working with children; that it is something that Jesus commands.
In recent years, the church has increased its motivation to work with children and young people, and as a result, with the network’s help, opened a Comprehensive Care Centre for children (known as a CAI) with their own resources.
Sister Senaida, an active member of the church for many years, says, “The church does not have many economic or human resources and very few infrastructural resources, since we do not have our own building, but we trusted in God, that children are favoured.”
Now the fruits of this work are already being seen: on two occasions every week children fill the church, receive educational support, and hear God’s word spoken. She says, “I feel happy to work with the children and have found the ministry that God intended for my life.”
Light of the World is one of 11 churches that have set up CAIs in Oruro, thanks to Viva’s partner network. They are working with the recognition of local authorities to provide care through food, sport, skills development, spiritual, health and psychological support, as well as leadership training.
In total, 665 children are regularly and directly benefiting from the centres, with a further 238 being helped indirectly or occasionally. Nearly 100 volunteers from local churches and universities support the work.
Several churches have established micro-enterprise initiatives to cover operative costs of their CAI, and are running businesses such as sewing centres, pharmacies, bakeries and child daycare.
An inter-institutional agreement between the departmental health service (SEDES), the association of doctors and Red Viva Oruro has been signed allowing medical care from 40 doctors for all the children and their parents that are part of a CAI.
Edwin is another person who has been hugely impacted by his involvement in a CAI in Oruro.
“I arrived here by accident”, he begins. “At first I was afraid of children so when my brother invited me to work with him I went only for a short time. I soon realised that these children needed help and I committed to help.”
It wasn’t long until the CAI co-ordinator left and Edwin felt called to step in to fill the gap. “I am not a member of the church,” he says, “but I felt God’s hand on the project and He gave me the grace to do it. I am committed to doing the work until God tells me and I know God will help me.”
“I have many ideas to improve my work”, he continues. “I am looking for materials to help children to improve their education. I want the children to know God and my desire is for them to have Jesus in their hearts. We also work with families and I believe that they are changing as they are integrating into the activities of the church.”
We give thanks to the commitment and dedication of people like Sister Senaida and Edwin, who are turning around the lives of children and their families.
We are also thankful for the network in Oruro in reaching out to the most vulnerable in society, not only through this project but also in teaching self-protection to street children and in mentoring parents. Oruro is one of six locations in Bolivia where Viva has a partner network.