Cochabamba, Bolivia: here, where the population is made up of 50% children and adolescents most of whom have been abandoned by their parents, the Association of Volunteer Service ONLUS “Casa de los Niños” has been active for some five years or so.
“We are the fruit of the encounter with the face of Jesus that became real in the persons who have crossed our path – those responsoble for the project wrote us – pushed by dreams of hope and of the welfare of those people who are living in situations of great suffering or marginalization, especially children”.
Chiara Lubich, foundress of the Focolare Movement, once expressed the wish that all orphanages could be closed hoping that each one of the little guests could enjoy the warmth and love of a family. “Following this dream of Chiara Lubich – they share – we went to work, there wherever it was possible, to recompose, to temporarily welcome and support the families or relatives of children in extreme difficulty. With the help of many we were able, in these past 6 years, to reunite almost a hundred families, offering them a dignified place to live.”.
The story of M.R. is an example, she was diagnosed to be HIV positive 8 years ago. When the staff of the Association met her, she wasn’t talking and walking; when she was discharged from the intensive care unit where she was confined due to an infection, she was welcomed at the “Casa de los Niños” (Children’s Home) . “M. R. will clebrate her 10th birthday in a few months – they share with joy. In the meantime her mother, who was sent away from her home because she was being blamed for this situation, was also welcomed by the Children’s Home and so a small family has been reunited”.
“Our Center – they continue – is now the point of reference of all the public institutions in the city who are taking care of those with HIV. Around 20% of the families in Cochabamba who are carriers of the virus are living with us. Also 30% of the HIV positive children in the city are staying at our “Cittadella Arcobaleno” (Little City Rainbow), together with other 200 children with different stories behind them”.
This concrete action, even if it is fundamental and necessary, cannot be separated from that which gives meaning and value to every action: “The art of encounter has marked our life – the staff share – and this is what we are seeing blossoming around us, it is the fruit of our relationship with extraordinary people with whom we share their life and their most profound dreams. This allows us to embrace innocent suffering, those of children who suffer the most absurd injustice, who suffer a life that they have not chosen and which obliges them to fight against the current from the moment they were born. We are here with them, with the tenacity of the miserable and the faith of the weak. We naively believe, that inspite of the daily failures, the good will always triumph”.