First Contacts – Street Work
We have a street outreach team who continually interact with the children who live in the sewers, storm drains, or under bridges at various points around the city. The kids know us, and they are always happy to spend time chatting, laughing – and sometimes crying – with our staff. We share our drinks, we bandage them up, we share hugs all around……. and we continually offer them unconditional love and the opportunity to leave the misery of street life.
The children have been so traumatized that it takes a long time for them to believe that the people who are helping won’t ultimately abandon them as others have done – let alone accept that God loves them, just as they are.
Reception Home – “El Toborochi
When a child makes the decision to come off the streets, one of the street outreach team brings them into the Reception House, which is purposefully located outside of the city. They spend five days there, usually de-toxing from drugs and/or alcohol.
During these five days, the child receives an intense personalized programme which involves interviews with the social worker, an initial psychological profile, and a thorough medical evaluation and treatment as needed. We take the opportunity of gently and creatively presenting the Gospel during this period while continuing to minister to the child’s physical and emotional needs. Our coordinator combines an orientation of what life will be like in the Restoration Home with a full-day visit there so the child can meet the other youth and see the hope that lies ahead.
Restoration Homes – “El Camino” (boys) / “El Alfarero” (girls)
After their stay in El Toborochi, the child moves into in the Restoration Home (also located outside of Santa Cruz), where they are met by a welcome party hosted by full time staff as well as the youngsters already living there. This is likely the first time this child has experienced safety, shelter, healthy food, and of course rules! Everyone shares in the responsibilities of the home – cleaning, tending to the vegetable garden or the chicken coop, and group cooking on the weekends.
We home-school each new youngster for at least the first six months while they gain stability and adjust to their new life. Because most of the street children have been out of school for some time, we also provide in-home teachers as well as psychologists and social workers to help them heal and progress. Once back in full time education for two years, we move them to a local private Christian school which provides a higher quality education, one rooted in a biblical world view. During the secondary years, they continue in school, either to learn a vocation or prepare for university.
We pay particular attention to the children’s spiritual development through church attendance and Bible studies, but we don’t push a particular doctrine or demand instant conversion – rather, we simply minister to each child in practical ways, continually emphasizing God’s unconditional love and mercy, and always reminding them that they are valued and they are loved.
Once the child has completed secondary education, they move into a Reintegration Home, located in Santa Cruz, where they have a supportive environment while studying for 3-5 years either in university or vocational school.
A child’s journey with Operation Restoration can take as long as 8 or 9 years; one of our youngsters lived with us for 13 years. Yet when they reintegrate into the local community as a productive, healthy adult – a new member of Bolivia’s growing middle class – we are always reminded of Luke 15:4;
“Suppose one of you has 100 sheep, and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the 99 in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, ‘rejoice with me, for I have found my lost sheep.’”
We rejoice with you for each restored life!