One of my very first site visits with Children Incorporated is something I will never forget. After a brief few days in La Paz, Bolivia, our Director of International Programs, Luis Bourdet, and I flew to Santa Cruz, in anticipation of meeting with our volunteer coordinator, Sister Pilar, at our affiliated site, Villa Emilia.

The same families still live in the homes, and the sense of community among the children and mothers was endearing.

When I initially met her back in 2016, Sister Pilar really stood out to me. A small, gregarious woman who has dedicated her life to working within underprivileged communities, she walked briskly in front of us as she showed us around Villa Emilia, an expansive compound where women and their children are given a safe place to learn trades and interact with other children away from the dangers of impoverished neighborhoods in the city.

The facility itself impressed me from the first moment I saw it, and made me very aware of just how much work was going into supporting these families. Their main goal is to help get women steady jobs so they can send their children to school and provide a consistent life for them that will help them get out of poverty as they grow into adults themselves. Because the housing on the Villa Emilia campus was limited, the amount of time that women could stay there with the children was also limited, and that was something that Sister Pilar really wanted to change.

looking to children incorporated for support

And change it did. Before we finished our visit with Sister Pilar 7 years ago, she drove us out to a plot of land 20 minutes outside of the city to show us her vision for the future — an empty field where houses would eventually be built that would offer permanent housing for families in need, so they would never have to worry about where they would live ever again.

Sister Pilar explained that Villa Emilia had already purchased the land and gotten permission from the government to build — all they needed now was help with funding the construction of the homes. Luis picked up on her not-so-subtle request for support, and ask Sister Pilar on the spot to send in a Hope In Action request to Children Incorporated for the cost of building the houses.

Three years later, Luis returned to Santa Cruz, where Sister Pilar had been hard at work overseeing plans for eight single family homes to be built. The celebration was joyous for everyone, especially for the mothers who were getting to move themselves and their children into their brand-new houses — all thanks to our donors. Four years after that, I once again traveled to Bolivia to see the homes that Sister Pilar was just as excited to show off as she was when she initially showed them to Luis a few years back.

The same families still live in the homes, and the sense of community among the children and mothers was endearing. As we toured the houses, each similar yet with their own special decorating touches, the children ran from yard to yard and into each other’s homes. I loved seeing how welcoming everyone was with one another — so comfortable and secure in their own neighborhood, where they had little to worry about, which was a drastic change from the lives they had before receiving such amazing support from Villa Emilia, Sister Pilar and Children Incorporated sponsors and donors.


How do I sponsor a child with Children Incorporated?

You can sponsor a child in one of three ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; email us at; or go online to our sponsorship portal, create an account, and search for a child that is available for sponsorship.


written by Shelley Callahan

Shelley is the Director of Development for Children Incorporated. She is also the lead social correspondent, regularly contributing insights through the Stories of Hope blog series. Sign up for Stories of Hope to receive weekly email updates about how your donations are changing the lives of children in need.

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