Our Affiliated Site: Villa Emilia in Santa Cruz, Bolivia


facts about Villa Emilia/San Juan:

  • Ages Served: All ages, from infants to high school students.
  • Education: Students are enrolled at government schools where core academic subjects are taught. At the center, children receive vocational skills training in dressmaking and cooking.
  • Academic Year: Typically begins in early February and ends in early December. Students enjoy summer break from mid-December through the end of January, and a two-week winter break in July.
  • Activities: In addition to academic support, children assist with various formative chores around Villa Emilia. They are also given ample free time for outdoor recreation and sports which include soccer, basketball and volleyball.
  • Nutrition: The Villa ensures that parents provide nutritional meals to their children. Once a month, the Children Incorporated program supplements food items for the children and their families.

The small, landlocked nation of Bolivia comprises rugged Andes Mountains and vast, high-altitude plateaus to the west (including a portion of Lake Titicaca, the largest high-altitude lake in the world) and lush, lowland plains of Amazon jungle to the east. Despite its wealth of natural beauty and resources, Bolivia bears the scars of centuries of conflict, beginning with the Spanish conquistadors and followed by almost 200 years of wars and internal military coups. Political and economic instability have brought about considerable poverty, resulting in widespread malnutrition, crime and disease. Santa Cruz, Bolivia’s largest city is no exception. The History of Villa Emilia starts with the remote, jungle community of San Juan de Yapacaní, which was founded in the 1950’s by Japanese immigrant farmers. Here, nuns from the Order of Adoratrices founded the San Juan Mission to provide support for the local impoverished families.

Eventually, the population grew beyond the capacity of available work, and many families migrated some 75 miles to Santa Cruz. There, the same Adoratrices Order established Villa Emilia to provide continued assistance to these vulnerable families. Today, children enrolled at Villa Emilia receive counseling, community support and housing in a beautiful complex of small units. Adults also participate in skills-training and job-placement programs. Through its community outreach and continued work on training and education, Villa Emilia provides many children and their families with the encouragement and assistance they need in order to rise above the difficult socioeconomic circumstances from which they come.