All Photographs ©2011 Jerolyn Bahm-Colombik & Roger Colombik
Sacar Adelante Mi Familia :
To Bring Forward My Family
Un Proyecto Por “Chico en las Calles” :
A Project For Children of The Streets
(Próximamente traducciónes en español)
There is an old blue van that cruises through the streets of Quito as evening descends and the majestic peak of volcan Pichincha succumbs to darkness. A sign on the vehicle announces Mi Caleta (My Shelter). The driver stops at familiar haunts where children tend to gather, sometimes encamped in a small group, sometimes alone where fear holds sway. The driver initiates a conversation with the children, inquiring if they need help, if they would like assistance, if they need shelter. No strings attached and no coercion. The only concern is to try and meet the present and immediate needs of a child who feels they have nowhere to go, no one to whom they can turn to for guidance and safety. If the child is interested, they can hop into the vehicle for a ride to Mi Caleta.
The child soon discovers that Mi Caleta is so much more than a physical shelter for the night. It is a place of opportunity where a childhood can be rediscovered. For a kid that has been living on the streets, often due to a series of economic/domestic circumstances they barely comprehend, Mi Caleta can reconnect that child with their lost youth. At Mi Caleta and at the many shelters throughout the region, children who have been living on the street can awaken to a sense of normalcy where personal safety, nutrition, education, counseling and so much more are available.
At the invitation of Gina Cicerone, Director of VASE (Voluntariado Para la Ayuda Social Del Ecuador), we initiated a project with the goal of contributing to the development, empowerment and self-actualization of the children. Spending time with kids at Mi Caleta and at the Don Bosco “Hacienda” outside of Ambato, we felt a great sense of gratitude that all of the children welcomed us into their lives. More importantly, through conversations, interviews, time at play, sharing meals and simply hanging out, the kids shared their dreams, goals and stories. Time and again, we were astounded to discover a profound sense of love, compassion and hope for the future in children who have survived serious psychological/physical trauma. When asking the kids about what they felt was their unique gift to the world, the responses often conveyed “happiness”, “affection”, “forgiveness”. The boys in Ambato had a strong sense of family, of caring for one another and making a contribution to the quality of life at the “Hacienda”. Several kids had very troubled histories with their families yet spoke longingly about reuniting with their families, of looking towards a better future together. The title of the project, Sacar Adelante Mi Familia comes from a statement by David, a precocious sixteen year old whose dream is to finish his studies and to work towards bringing his family out of their difficult circumstances.
We soon discovered that these children have indeed rediscovered their childhood and the ability to dream and foresee the possibilities of a future. They want to make a contribution to their families and to their society. What a beautiful gift for us all.
This project is intended as an “open source” program where our ideas, initiatives and procedures can be utilized to develop a system where more “Chicos en las Calles” can share their stories and dreams with the world and discover that their voice has an audience.
* Sacar Adelante will feature numerous stories, images, video and music from the project in the coming weeks.