Sipe Sipe is home to about sixty boys. Most of them have been abused sexually and taken from their families by the authorities. These boys have a distorted view of sex; violence seems to naturally belong to it for them. This means that the chances of they themselves becoming the perpetrators of sexual violence are quite high.
Casa de la Alegría gives two grouplessons here every week. One for boys aged 8 to 11 and one for adolescents aged 12 to 15. We focus on the expression of emotions – especially anger – in order to tackle machismo. The behaviour of these boys is strongly influenced by Latin-American machismo culture. The internalised codes as you are not a man if you show weakness make it hard for these boys to access their true feelings.
The results in de grouplessons at Sipe Sipe have been visible for a couple of years. The boys express less aggressive behaviour, have become more assertive, and adjusted their ideas about sex. Moreover we notice that their new insights are transferred to their younger brothers as well. This way we stop the vicious circle of abuse and violence.
Corazón Alegre is a protection shelter for girls aged 12 to 17. They have been victim of trafficking; sold or taken from their families and forced to do sex work.
Many of these girls have suffered brainwashing or gas-lighting, because the perpetrators have been their sole ‘carers’ for years. Therefor they often suffer from mental illness like PTSS, depression, or bipolar disorder. Our work here revolves around raising body awareness, because most girls still consider themselves ‘objects’. They have to relearn what feels good and what does not, and what they want and do not want.
After a difficult start – because the girls have a hard time letting the idea that they would be better off with their pimp go – we see that six to seven months later change has started. The girls become more susceptible to our input, are becoming more assertive, and get better at expressing their emotions.
Libertad y Revivir
Libertad y Revivir houses children and adolescents who have been saved from trafficking and sex work. They have experienced abuse for many years and have consequently developed an extremely low self-image.
We strive to make these kids resilient and to let them rise above the criminal enterprises in their surroundings. Bodily awareness, assertiveness, and self-confidence are central in the classes here.
These skills support the strength to start a different journey and to let the idea go that they were better of in their previous life. They discover their self-worth, which talents they have, and how they can become independent.
Casa de los Niños
Casa de los Niños is a unique project: in 2008 an Italian man bought a large plot of land in Chiquicollo – a poor neighbourhood of Cochabamba – to build houses and a school there. This became a home for sixty very poor families. Unfortunately this community has become a hotbed for violence, drugs, and criminal enterprise. The kids are exposed to this already at a very young age.
We support the kids here to fend for themselves and to learn how to say no in a respectful way. To achieve this, we focus on bodily self-awareness, setting boundaries, and expressing emotions. We also include the themes of communication, working together, and trust. Sex education is very important as in this community (unwanted) teen pregnancies are a common occurrence.
Villa Esperanza is a shelter for children and their tías (auntie in Spanish; in this context it means someone who assumed parental care and authority). The children have been extremely neglected or abused and therefor have very serious bonding problems. They experience difficulties building trust in relationships and often end doing crime.
We offer two group lessons here every week. One for boys aged 8 to 12 and one for adolescents aged 12 to 18. Many kids in this shelter lack bodily self-awareness. We work on their (verbal) expression of emotions and give their new carers/mothers tía-training in which we talk about their problems at work and organise practical workshops.
The results in these groups are lagging behind compared to the other work we do. The reason for this is the serious bonding problems that these children deal with. We do see that the kids are getting better at expressing their emotions and experience less difficulties setting boundaries.
Estrellas de la Calle
Estralles de la Calle is a daytime shelter for children that work in the streets. They are supported here in their homework and are provided with a warm lunch. These children often experience violence and drugs firsthand at a very young age, both in the streets and in their homes.
We work on creating critical awareness and the setting of boundaries; both are essential skills on the street. As these kids have not experienced a proper childhood, we instruct the teachers that they cannot let their classes be informed by the standard image of how a child is supposed to be.
We notice that these children are more assertive and independent than their peers, because they work on the streets. They accept our classes more readily and the results are accordingly. Through this pace in the uptake of our classes, we are also able to talk about themes like sexuality and relationships.
Casa de la Amistad
Casa de la Amistad offers meals and education to kids that have been in prison with their mothers. These kids live with other family members, but their lives are still heavily influences by their past. Many kids have several unprocessed traumas; their mothers are in jail because they killed their spouses after years of abuse.
The focus of the classes here is on domestic violence, dealing with anger, and setting boundaries. We help the kids to develop an different perspective that will eventually make it possible for them to put the past to rest. Furthermore, we organise activities for the mothers mostly in the areas of impulse control and self-confidence. Additionally there is time for the talent development and vocational training for both the mothers and their children. This supports and eases reintegration into society.
The stability of Casa de la Amistad is a huge factor in the good results that we are seeing in this location. Our experience is that held beliefs (about machismo for example) shift both in boys and girls. We also see that the expression of emotions becomes easier.