National Director, IJM Bolivia
Learn more about
children on the streets
in this book, written
by Kaya founder
Dr. Chi Huang.
Kaya, originally named the Bolivian Street Children Project (BSCP), began in 1997 as a volunteer effort initiated by Dr. Chi Huang and sponsored by Park Street Church of Boston. Taking a year off before entering his medical residency, Dr. Huang spent a year in La Paz, Bolivia, coordinating volunteers from a local church to provide outreach services to children living on the streets. While their aim was to help children leave the streets and enter a local residential facility, this proved to be more difficult than expected. The children they successfully convinced to leave the streets returned to the streets in a matter of days. They simply would not stay in the various residential programs around the city, and returning home was not an option. Something was not working and a generation of children was about to be lost permanently to the streets.
Volunteers continued outreach efforts into 1998 and 1999. The growing group provided a variety of services on the streets to connect with the children, earn their trust, and help them make a permanent move off the streets. The children provided important insight and direction. They shared what did not work for them in other programs and they asked the volunteers for three things: â€śbe present in our lives, share our stories with others who will listen, and build us a home.â€ť So they did.
In early 2001 the first home, the Hogar BernabĂ©, was opened and BSCP took root as an organized initiative of Park Street Church. The approach was to help â€śone child at a timeâ€ť and grow slowly and carefully, taking inventory of lessons learned along the way. Since all of the children BSCP encountered on the streets had been in multiple other programs, an important part of the initial BSCP mission was to figure out better practice while simultaneously attempting to help a small group of children transform their lives.
Over the next several years, BSCP grew slowly and steadily from one to three homes, each serving 10 children. It also moved out from under the umbrella of Park Street Church and became an independent non-profit organization. The focus was on building quality homes using a holistic care approach.
At the same time, volunteer leaders in the US engaged in research to better understand the individual needs of the children in the homes. Considerable time was also spent evaluating intervention strategies and considering the long-term future of the organization.
In 2008, armed with more experience and a deeper understanding of the various issues surrounding children on the streets, the leaders of the BSCP committed to taking this grassroots organization to the next level. As we asked ourselves what would be the most appropriate way to grow, the answer was not through building more and more homes. It was through engaging in more preventive interventions, and building creative partnerships with families and communities to enable them to better raise their own children.
To accommodate this expanded vision, and ourÂ increasing participation inÂ activities around the world,Â the BSCP was renamedÂ Kaya Children International.Â "Kaya" means "tomorrow" in Quechua, one of the indigenous languages of Bolivia.Â It reflects our desire to give children on the streets a better tomorrow, as well our focus on a future in which no child needs to live on the streets.