La Guardia is the name of the small town where Reina and Jorge Gutierrez live with their family, twenty kilometres away from Santa Cruz, the emerging Bolivian city.
Reina was orphaned, without a mother at the age of six, and was placed in an institute together with her little brother.
She relates: “There was nothing but we were in the best condition to believe in the providence of God. Being able to show that the ideal of unity radically changes persons seems to me a specific Bolivian contribution to evangelisation.”
“Good will is not enough, competence is also required. So I enrolled in a course for psychopedagology at the moment that we understood that we were able to put up a children’s shelter.”
So she graduated within four years, during which she projected and then built the shelter, which was completed in 2008 and then inaugurated in the presence of many persons of authority, and her neighbours.
As they needed bread for the 120 children of the shelter, Reina also invented a bakery, modest but very efficient, taken care of by a small equip, composed of lady Esperanca, Carlito, a child of nine years, and her son Daniel, who is 18, and a young girl of 15 years, who works at the bakery and studies in the evening.
From the shelter, one can hear the echo of the children and the games. The rooms appear very clean and well laid out. The teachers occupy the children, of various ages, from two to ten years, with ingenious activity and a little anarchy that does not ruin them. They invent games with coloured balloons, and distribute the lunch as though it is an exploration adventure. Each child has his own story of poverty and emargination, of alcoholism, and infidelity among parents, and egoism. Stories that are unbelievable.
In one place, two women concentrated on sewing. Reina has also invented a tailoring unit! There is Rita who has seven children, who is a teacher, and comes here during the rest periods. And Elisa, who has been abandoned by her husband and here, has been helped out of depression. Reina is like that: when she sees single cases in difficulty, she invents adequate solutions. The office of Reina is piled with books. Here the lady also carries out therapy with children who have learning difficulty.
The shelter is supported by communal contributions and collaboration with NGO’s, above all by the support from afar of the Action For New Families; without forgetting the contribution of the State for the food, and the quota of 1,20 bolivar every day (10 euro cents) asked from the parents of the children, a matter of maintaining dignity and participation. Those who work at the shelter or in the related activities do their utmost to “provoke providence”.
Under a photo of Chiara Lubich, stands a sentence: “Be always a family.” “I have made this sentence mine-concludes Reina-. I work every day so that the children here can always find a space of family.” Almost as though to soothe a wound that comes from afar, in her heart.
(Source: “Family space”, insert attached to no. 21 of Citta Nuova 2011, pag. 12 and 13)