Efrain and his new shoesAs we continue our tour of La Paz, one of the children we meet is Efrain, an energetic fourth-grader who lives near the Pedro Poveda school. Like any child, Efrain is proud of what he owns and likes to show his stuff to visitors. He shares an infectious smile with us as he holds up a prized pair of shoes Josefina has brought him. He’s equally excited to show us the kittens he’s raising who sleep in their own little bed beside the bed he shares with his brother in a bedroom where the whole family sleeps.

His mom works long hours as a cleaner, so this excellent student spends afternoons at the community center, where he breezes through most of his homework. When he has trouble, local college students help him to master challenging material in their roles as volunteer tutors.

Efrain lives with his mom and three siblings in a small, single-bedroom home that’s owned by his grandmother. She used to rent it to lodgers, but she let her daughter and grandchildren move in to save money as they struggled with hardships and poverty after the children’s father abandoned them.

Efrain faces many challenges, but he has resources, particularly the tireless support of Josefina, our Children Incorporated coordinator in La Paz. She was the principal of the Pedro Poveda school he attends, but she retired five years ago at age 70 to run the community center. The center was once a simple library, but she had a vision for it to be so much more. She transformed it into a comprehensive facility for her students, where they could have a stable refuge from sometimes difficult home lives and learn modern skills to get ahead.

Efrain faces many challenges, but he has resources, particularly the tireless support of Josefina, our Children Incorporated coordinator in La Paz.

I’m fascinated by Josefina and ask her many questions after we leave Efrain, headed to the next visit, but she doesn’t talk about herself much. She prefers to talk about her vision for the children, focusing on their needs and ways to ameliorate the hardships in their lives. We know she has lived in La Paz for most of her life. While she isn’t a nun nor does she use the title “Sister”, she does belong to a religious order, and her faith has led her to devote her life to helping children. She lives simply, sharing communal space with other women from the order, all of whom come to La Paz just to work with her at the community center.

Our next visit is with Carla, who was enrolled into the Children Incorporated program while she was a student at Pedro Poveda. Carla works as a teacher and has been pursuing further education to become a linguist. She is happily married to her husband, a mechanic named Juan Carlos, and the couple have a three-year-old daughter.

Life hasn’t always been good. Carla had been abandoned by her parents at age 8. They left her with her grandmother, a vendor in the local market with few resources to take care of her properly. Thankfully, she was a student at Pedro Poveda, and was quickly enrolled into child sponsorship. Carla still writes letters to her sponsor, practicing her English and expressing gratitude for the role they played in helping her thrive.

Josefina, always the gracious host, so proud to show the work being done through the program she leads, hasn’t taken us on a typical site visit. Carla isn’t in the program anymore, and her daughter is too young to be admitted. Josefina has brought us here so we can see how a woman who was once sponsored has done since leaving the program. Even more importantly, she wants to show us her vision for Efrain’s future. From a broken home to a stable home; from surviving to thriving. This is who Josefina is and this is what she brings to the children and the families touched by her program. She’s a woman who can look at a child and see their future, and then devote her whole life to helping them get there.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN BOLIVIA?

You can sponsor a child in Bolivia in one of three ways – call our office and speak with one of our sponsorship specialists at 1-800-538-5381, email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org, or go online to our donation portal, create and account, and search for a child in Bolivia that is available for sponsorship.