Building upon this situation and our founder’s years of experience on the ground, Cooperand is a tool designed to help the rehabilitation of this demographic group of people who live in a critical situation. We strongly believe that these children will succeed only if we provide them with mechanisms that allow them to care for themselves in society.
It is therefore as important to rescue them from the streets, as it is to recover them both physically and psychologically. A personal and professional training will allow them not only to reintegrate into society as “full” citizens but also to act with confidence, security and willpower.
Granting a technical professional training to such a marginalized group, increases exponentially its successful reintegration into society since these children will have acquired highly demanded specific skills like Information Technologies, and will be able to distinguish themselves from the crowds.
The problem of is most acute in poor countries. Because Bolivia is the poorest country of South America and the second poorest country in the world, after Haiti, the situation of this marginalized group in society is severe and it affects an excessive number of people. The standard of living of most of the population is alarmingly low, most lacking access to nutrition, education, health and hygiene.
69% of children and teenagers under 17 live below the poverty line and child labour rate represents 22% of the children between 5 and 14 years old. There are 4.5 million children in Bolivia, 2.8 million of whom live with a high risk of: neglect, drug addiction, prostitution, exploitation, and all kinds of abuses. Thousands of young girls and boys under 14 work in the streets to survive.
Public entities are overwhelmed and cannot meet the daily needs that the problem requires, public shelters are almost non-existent, and private shelters receive very little public help.
Santa Cruz de la Sierra is the most industrialized city of the country and has witnessed an exponential increase of its population in the last 20 years. Families who strived to survive in the suburbs or rural areas have been attracted by the possibility to get a decent job in the city, leading to an unprecedented social structure decay. Many families who do not succeed in improving their lives in the new destination emigrate somewhere else, leaving behind them their children abandoned in the city. Many others cannot make ends meet and force their children to work in the streets, where many get “lost” forever. Others have to flee their families where they endure abuses, ill-treatments and violence. Finally, it is quite common that girl teenagers, who live in the streets are sexually abused and give birth in this environment.
Once, they get pulled into life on the streets, these children, ranging from 0 to 17 years old, are completely defenceless. In the best scenario they are exploited with jobs such as “diablillos” (carrying carts), or shoeshine boys, receiving little, unhealthy food, no health care, being subject to inclement weather, abuse from authorities, street violence, drugs and prostitution.
Their life expectancy is low and when there is an initiative to help them, whether private, public, or from a committed citizen, which aims at sending these young people to a foster home, the possibilities to reintegrate them are scarce, since these centres are not prepared for this daunting task.
When these children arrive, they are in a critical situation, and human and material resources are needed to help them in all kinds of ways: giving them food, clothes, hygiene, treating their illnesses, their traumas and psychological wounds. Human resources must be able not only to guide them but also to rebuild the trust of these young boys and girls towards society so that they will be able to improve their self-esteem and gain will-power to reintegrate society.