Santa Cruz de la Sierra (Agenzia Fides) - Over a thousand children in the Bolivian outskirts of Santa Cruz de la Sierra are street children, and many others are likely to become street children in an area where violence is a daily fact.
In order to cope with this phenomenon, Father Cervantes Gabarrón, a diocesan missionary in the parish of Cristo Misionero of the Archdiocese of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, has been involved in the Oikía project for over 10 years, a center created by the Ayuda Association in los Niños de Bolivia, to assist marginalized and abandoned children living on the streets.
Oikía, which means home, is simply a reception home as well as an educational institute inspired by the dignity of the person, respect for the love for life, freedom of the human being, social justice and solidarity with the poorest.
"The mission of Oikía is to provide street children and adolescents with an alternative educational proposal with a humanistic and Catholic orientation to arouse in them the desire for a change of life that will allow them to abandon the street and try to build a dignified life, reads a note by Fr. Cervantes sent to Fides.
Oikía has three centers (night, daytime and the carpentry workshop school). In the first, young children have dinner, sleep and have breakfast. The day center is a cultural center as well as a school space where children learn to read and write and where they can also complete primary school studies. The carpentry workshop offers professional training and children learn to build educational games that are then sold. The overall goal of Oikía is to offer shelter to street children and youth for a limited period of time and encourage their personal self-esteem.
"It is important to help them believe in God’s love, who wants their happiness and their freedom; provide psychological support; organize time, planning educational activities that promote the development of children, girls and teenagers; make every child feel that Oikía is a place where there is a real family climate based on solid pillars of values such as love, understanding, respect, confidence and joy", adds the missionary.
Since the mid-nineties, Santa Cruz de la Sierra has been the most populous city in Bolivia. Out of a population of 2,542,916 inhabitants, the archdiocese has 2,004,679 Catholics, 89 parishes and 21,586 baptized. (AP) (Agenzia Fides, 9/11/2017)