Thursday, May 10, 2007

Welcome to the Planet

So one of the foundations in Bolivia that has really captured my heart is Niños Con Valor which means “Children with Value”.

This foundation is, how do you say, right up my alley and is the one group that I am most looking forward to spending time with on my upcoming placement trip to Bolivia. I was tremendously impacted by my time spent with them last summer and when I read about the vision they have for the future something just stirs in my heart.

They currently have a home for abandoned and orphaned girls (Corazón del Pastor) currently home to 18 girls. And their next project is a home for older girls who are currently living with HIV on the streets of Cochabamba. They want to provide a safe residence for them to act not only as a rehabilitation center but as a training center to help these girls find decent work and become peer educators for other girls living on the streets. They have the vision, they just need the funding. It is sad to think that they have this great vision to start a home for street girls living with HIV that they simply can’t make a reality until they receive an additional $3200 a month in funding.

I received an email from Tyson, their Executive Director, a few days ago describing the process of going out at night and trying to find girls on the street to help. I can’t do it justice with a paraphrase so here are his own words…

“Recently, the visits Jackie, Barbara and I have been making to the downtown streets at night have broken our hearts. Many of the girls we have met have backgrounds similar enough to the girls of CdP in that they have been victims of abuse, neglect or abandonment. That said, while our girls have from a young age found refuge in a loving home, these girls ended up on the streets where the abuse has only increased. Instead, girls as young as 6 are living in corrugated tin roofed huts or under bridges and are already addicted to glue. Girls 9 and 10 years old are drawn into child prostitution robbing them of what little childhood they have left after finding themselves on the streets. We have been moved by the overwhelming oppression that hangs over these girls’ lives. Personally, I cannot convey in words the sorrow of spending an evening chatting with these girls, laughing with them, then being able to return home to all my comforts knowing that they would spend the rest of the night high in the arms of some stranger distancing themselves even further from God’s desire for their lives.”

The words that really just break my heart are “the girls as young as 6 living on the streets and under bridges are already addicted to glue.” I immediately had a point of reference because my niece Carolyn is 6. It is mind-blowing to imagine a little girl like my niece living under a bridge addicted to glue. And sniffing glue is one of the most common addictions for street kids. Because of a lack of food they fall into a cycle of sniffing the glue to dull their hunger pains. I really can’t accurately express the sinking feeling that I feel in my stomach when I think about this.

This is the world outside my safe little bubble. In many ways I feel like I am actually seeing our world for what it truly is. I kinda feel like I’m Neo and I just decided to swallow the red pill to see just how deep the rabbit hole goes.

And it’s not just in Bolivia, it’s in Atlanta. I found out recently that Atlanta is believed to be one of the top cities in the U.S. for child sex trafficking. Wow. Right here in the Atlanta. Not 3700 miles away. 3 miles away.

Welcome to the planet, Curt.

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