The Casa Maín Home For Girls had its start in 1992 as a response to the challenges of modern society at the time. One of the motivations or, undoubtedly, the most important one to launch the project was the global declaration of The International Year of the Woman that made us become aware of the reality and situation of the dignity of this group. In Latin America, the Catholic Church spoke about the subhuman reality increasingly denying or diminishing the rights of women. The Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, responded to this challenge in their General Chapter XXI, under the theme: «Deepening the female condition present in different cultures, to respond to the needs of women, considering especially the social environment in each case.» The proposed General Chapter responded to this situation with the plan for openings of social works for street children or in high social risk in whichever communities where the need, and perhaps the urgency, of responding arose.
The Inspectoría Nuestra Señora de la Paz, in Bolivia, with over 75 years of educational work and a clear preferential option for the promotion of women, was launched to respond to this challenge with the purchase of a plot of 13,841 m2 in the Tierras Nuevas Carmen district, to start there the awaited and dreamed building for the sake of the girls and young women who were in the aforementioned situation.
Sister Eunice Mesa, Provincial of the Daughters of Mary Help of Bolivia responded effectively, with love and firmness, to the Church and to the social reality of women, promoting this new work as an urgent mission and, with the approval Mother Superior Marinella Castagno and her Council. Sister Eunice, with the generous collaboration four sisters from the Inspectoría: Sister Encarnación Gómez, Sister Nancy Quispe, Sister Lucila Guerra and Sister Elizabeth Meneses, began activity in very unfavorable conditions: a house with rooms with no doors, no windows, no electricity and no water...
In carrying out this work were always present, collaborating actively, Sister Adela Moreno, inspectorial economist, and Sister Josefa Muñoz, economist from the Maria Auxiliadora community of Montero. They, along with the founding community, managed the legal documentation of the acquired property and the authorization of the National Organization for Minor, Women and Family (ONAMFA) while they fixed the house the best possible way.
Her tireless activity marked the beginnings of the Casa Maín Home and when the said little house was in better condition and the environments that were essential for fostering the first children and adolescents who were invited by the sisters fixed, they provided food and a safe place to live in.
With much enthusiasm and hope, they dreamt that if given a good reception and a delicate approach, some of them might stop living in the street to find a house and a family of their own.
As the Home consolidated and the spirit behind it became well-known, public institutions and individuals requested the admission of girls into our project (including the police, the Defender of Children and Adolescents, the Social Service Headquarters, sisters and priests working in particularly difficult neighborhoods or areas, sensitive and supportive people), as they knew that Casa Maína sheltered street children and children from hazardous environments. Often, the girls and teenagers themselves made it to the Home and asked for shelter for various reasons: parental neglect, death of one or both parents, because they were lost in the city (especially migrants), because they fled home due to violence, mistreatment, abuse or rape.
The Home welcomes children and teenagers from five to sixteen years approximately. Those who are between five and nine years old are the most vulnerable because around that age they walk the streets in serious danger of not being able to ever get out of them.
The younger they are, the greater the possibility of being physically and emotionally abused as they are defenseless against the abuse and attacks by close or not-so-close people who take advantage of their innocence and naiveté.
Those who are between ten and twelve years old, a period which coincides with their physical development and the passage from childhood to adolescence, run the greater social and family risks.
The Home chose these younger girls to accompany them and release them from situations that do not allow for a quiet growth and for the maturation of their personality. They are accompanied full time until they finish their education in primary and secondary schools if their families have not grown quieter and an appropriate environment for their family reintegration is provided. In some cases where the situation does not improve, the Home gives the young the opportunity to stay on to facilitate their integration into society through higher education and jobs, according to their possibilities.
Features of the Maín Home
The Centre, in its process of consolidation, has become a permanent and stable Home. The children and adolescents are comfortable and stay there only if they choose to (they are never forced to). The Home replaces their natural family as an essential factor for growth and socialization, i.e. their family ties have been recovered and they have left the streets that had become their permanent habitat.
The Home also welcomes those girls who, by choice or because of another person's pressure, perform any gainful activity (or not) designed to take advantage of the public space and of people's affluence. In this type of population family ties (or with those they depend on) are maintained.
There are several circumstances under which girls may gain shelter: as a result of neglect, violence, abuse, orphanhood, poverty and family disintegration. Some, despite their young age, have serious emotional problems due to sexual abuse. Street girls may have no family reference. Many of them do not possess any sort of documentation (a fact that hinders the promptness of their sheltering or insertion).
Our sheltering Center welcomes girls and pre-teens who, in their short life history have had particular problems that made them vulnerable to traumatic experiences in the development of their growth as individuals. We welcome:
- Poor girls under strong physical, moral and social risks
- Victims of physical and psychological violence
- Victims of physical or emotional abuse and of sexual abuse
- Victims of child labor
- Abandoned or lost girls
- Girls whose families are dysfunctional
- Total or partial orphans
- Girls whose parents are alcoholics and/or drug addicts
- Girls whose parents live in extreme poverty and run physical and moral risks in their own family
Faced with the harsh reality of child abuse especially in Santa Cruz, and in Bolivia in general, the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, a community of women devoted to the integral education of girls and poor and abandoned youth, see in the suffering of these children the urgent need and pain that drives them with the very love that impelled the Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello educational experiences.
The Maín Home is an open-door shelter, of a stable nature, which has as its main goal the integral formation of children, adolescents and young girls at risk and of victims of social abuse in view of the training of a good Christian and an honest citizen, committed to social change in Bolivia.
Specialist care includes: prevention activities, promotion and rehabilitation offered to them according to the degree of complexity of their problem, and according to the available resources and means of diagnosis and intervention, prioritizing the most urgent social needs, and following optimization criteria of available services.
Our actions aim to improve living conditions, mitigating the damage caused by permanence in the streets, and to encourage their voluntary participation in more structured and intensive assistance processes.
Encouraging children and adolescents in their comprehensive training in a family atmosphere that provides physical, social and psychological security and allows them to take charge of and improve their own history from the Preventive System.
Following the pedagogy of love, from foster care and support according to the Salesian charism, we offer the children and teenagers opportunities to gain back or give rise to reasons to live, to overcome, and to find ways of re-entering their families and society with a responsible and solid attitude and, above all, of being people who are to become honest citizens.
- She is the protagonist of her own formation
- She learns how to find and recover the sense of life, assuming the values that help her find herself and others
- She learns to be a leader and to live with joy and meaningfulness
- She is able to give and share in fraternity and justice
- She is optimistic, responsible and perseverant
- She calmly recognizes her qualities and weaknesses
- She is committed to live the Christian faith in a Salesian style
- She has a strong sense of belonging
- She is respectful and appreciative, honest and hardworking
- She shows a great love and respect for her Home and her Family
We intend to provide educational support throughout the whole of their developmental age and a comprehensive training in its physical, psychological, intellectual, social, moral and spiritual dimensions.
- Area of emotional security
- Emotional, sexual, social and relational areas
- Cognitive area
- Spiritual, moral and religious areas
Family is and always will be the optimal environment for normal and integral development of the person, its role will never be denied to girls and will not be wholly assumed by any person or institution.
The building Casa Maín Home functions 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Its appearance generally arouses feelings of admiration and tranquility. The gardens and open spaces provide a very important environment for relaxation. Indeed, for every girl arriving there the Home is a first communication impact.
The religious community makes great efforts to find maintenance and preservation means, this attracts attention and respect, favoring the girls' self-esteem. They can invite family, friends or classmates and they frequently receive support, approval and congratulations from them.
It is a comprehensive environment where inner beauty is expressed, the beauty one aspires through human and spiritual formation, joy and healthy living.
Spaces and Resources
The Maín Home has several different environments, common and individual, with their furniture, versatile spaces where exchanges between the common and private can reconcile to greater harmony and coexistence of educators and girls.
At the entrance of the Home are: the porter's lodge, reception room, office management, secretary office, social work, psychology, educational psychology, meeting room and medical and hygienic services.
Each stage has adequate space for peaceful development and growth of their members: spacious common dormitories, common toilets and showers, dining room, kitchen, laundry, bakery, study halls, warehouses, playgrounds, sports fields, gardens and others.
For all training activities in general a Chapel, a Library, a Computer Room, an Audiovisual Room, a Children's Playroom, a Crafts Workshop, a Kitchen, a Bakery, a Dining Room, a Vegetable Garden, Gardens, a Park, Sports Fields, Visits Area, Bedrooms and a Nursery are available.
The Maín Home Educational Community consists of sisters, Daughters of Mary Help, and interdisciplinary education external staff such as a cook, educators, volunteers, a social worker, a psychologist, an educational psychologist and a health assistant.
The management of the educational community is a complex task and it requires the integration of different educational skills. All functions must be widely shared by educators (with ability to pass on information, completing the tasks begun by others, etc.).
The Educational Community, in a continuous dialogue and co-responsibility accompanies every girl and adolescent in her process of growth and maturation, through specific actions.
People who work in this project are committed to fulfill the following purposes:
- Understanding, assimilating and acting progressively within the Preventive System of Don Bosco
- Respecting and obeying authority
- Being responsible for the task assigned to them
- Having a unity of criteria in the support of children and young girls
- Encouraging open and mature relationships
- Fulfilling the assigned functions according to the manual
- Generously giving away the time shared with the girls
- Acting according to common criteria in the education of girls and young women
- According with the Director the stimuli that are deemed necessary, in accordance with the methodology of prevention
- Performing monthly evaluation according to the agreed scheme
- Contributing actively and creatively in meetings of integration, training, study, evaluation and programming
- Provincial at a national level
- Home Direction
- Social Services
- Psychological Service
- Educational Service
- Medical Service
- Catechesis and Pastoral Service
- Support staff
Educational interventions at the Maín Home, tend to guarantee psycho-physical development in a rich and stimulating atmosphere from a affective-relational standpoint, considering the personal situation the addressées confront. It articulates its educational intervention program in three stages:
First stage: reception and integration into the Casa Maín Home
Girls who enter the Home for the first time, in whichever situation they were found, belong in the first stage. They live their first experience as to being in a new and unfamiliar environment that represents their first emotional impact in the Home.
The objective of this stage is to take the children with much affection and love. That helps them adapt to life in the home and helps start or re-start their studies at school and to strengthen their poor state of health. Solid psychological support must be provided so they gain confidence as they feel they get security, support, affection, and interest in them and can feel at ease.
The duration may be a year or longer, until they reach the conditions required to proceed to the second stage.
For this stage, we have an infrastructure located at the entrance of the home; girls share most of the day with the sisters in charge and educators, and, as to the educational and recreational activities, they join their mates already in the second stage.
Second stage: support towards independence
The girls who in the first stage
- have become familiar with their peers and educators,
- have acquired some habits of good behavior,
- want to return the good they have received,
- hope to be a good example for their peers,
- understand that this is their house and so they look after it and protect it,
- and wish to collaborate in assisting the smaller ones,
The first objective of this stage is to accompany the process of growth and development of children and adolescent girls, encouraging each adolescent to develop personal skills and qualities to start professional training.
Those adolescents and young girls who still need it, continue their studies at primary or secondary level and those who are older, study at CEMA (Centre for Fast Middle Studies) in the afternoon.
Adolescents continue their studies in primary school or secondary college, with their comprehensive training, while they are encouraged to study a technical profession in parallel, especially the older ones or those in a position to respond with some maturity. Some begin their employment in the holidays or year-end holidays, to learn to work and earn some money for themselves. The Home offers them everything they need to dress, study, and keep in good health and promote in all respects.
Third stage: support during the process of reintegration into society
The young girls who have completed their high school studies or have obtained vocational training, and wish to continue their higher education while getting inserted in the workplace.
The young people who have reached 18 years or more, who have no family and no place to go, can remain integrated in the third stage of the Home. Similarly, young people who have a family can stay in if they can not join them because the family is still a motive of risk and/or danger to their integrity and, for that reason, they need support to continue with their studies, to get a job placement and to seek stable independence to allow for their personal fulfillment.
This stage, given its characteristics, will only last for two years, and may extend to three in exceptional cases.
The objectives for this stage are:
- Strengthening the process of each young girl's affective maturity and personality as a strength to face life honestly and independently.
- Supervising the employment of young people that enables them to sustain themselves, guiding them in the most appropriate way for the administration of the income earned through their own work and, if possible, promoting saving.
- Providing the necessary protection and support to give the young girls security of personal fulfillment, as well as professional or when forming their own family.
Both the alumni who graduated while at the Home and those girls and adolescents who completed their family reintegration without having had to stay many years in the Maín Home belong to the association of former students.
The objectives of this association are:
- to maintain close ties between the Home and alumni, as ours is an open house that welcomes those who wish to share concerns and experiences, to thank for the training received, to express their problems, achievements, joys and to ask for advice in their difficulties
- to provide guidance and dialogue to join the Salesian Alumni Association
In order to attain a beneficial effect a synergy job well done requires the support of all members of the educational community. To achieve this goal, it is essential to foster meetings with all the interdisciplinary team at least once a month for evaluation and training.
Need for an Educative Unit (Humanistic and Technical) Specific to the Maín Home and Open to Students of the District
The need arises for the following reasons:
- The difficulty to find a school or college that can ensure the continuity of the educational process of the children and adolescent girls of Maín House
- The unfavorable climate of schools given the excessive number of students, which hampers good care and attention, brings forth indiscipline, moral hazards and habits of neglect and misconduct
- The school in the District that our children attend, does not have enough spaces for the number of girls in the Home, so many families regret not being able to enrole their children for this reason and are forced to look for school outside the neighborhood
- Leaving the Home to go to school and especially the moment of coming back motivates and helps in some cases the running away of girls and adolescents
We do not get the economic cooperation that in due justice we should receive from the Autonomous Departmental Government to cover for the basic needs of the Work:
As dietary scholarship we receive the sum of Bs.7 per child/day, a sum that only pays for breakfast as we spend approximately Bs.40 in the daily diet of each girl.
We also suffer from lack of items (work personal covered by the Government). The Home has 25 members supporting the education of the girls and we get only a minimum monthly Bs.1,294 from the Government to the Director of the Home, which does not take into account her category, her studies, her antiquity in charge, or other professional aspects.
The Municipal Government of Santa Cruz gives us a scholarship of Bs.25,000 per year for the expenses in electricity, water, telephone and chemical products, a sum that even fails to cover 50% of the real cost.
All these deficiencies are covered by:
- The economic cooperation in cash and supplies by both people and national and especially international institutions such as the Sponsor Plan or the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help that support the Work to the best of their capabilities
- Numerous benefactors, mainly those providing volunteer service and knowing the Work, who get resources by various means to the best of their capabilities
To all our benefactors, our most sincere gratitude: with their help they enable that our mission can be performed.
Need for Qualified Staff
The personal history of girls is a challenge for their teachers. The difficult reality with which they get to our center requires specialized educational interventions. The educator must have higher education in special education in accordance to the emergency needs of the girls in the Home. They also require emotional balance, personal maturity and strength of character to act with much kindness, wisdom and patience.