On August 20, seven youth and faith formation ministers and two CRS staff members traveled to Bolivia and Peru through the Called to Witness program that provides short-term, firsthand experiences of the developing world as seen through the lens of Catholic Social Teaching. Carolyn Trumble, coordinator of middle school ministries, elementary education and sacramental preparation, St. Cecilia Church, filed this reflection.
Our van navigated a bumpy dirt road to reach the Luz y Esperanza (Light and Hope) Center. The founder, Sr. Doris Huertas, greeted us with the same love, joy and honor she gives to each one of her boys. Luz y Esperanza is a place for boys who are living and dying on the streets of La Paz, Bolivia. These young boys, ages approximately 8 to18, have been abandoned and are forced to endure the horrors of a life of poverty and violence. The boys turn to alcohol and sniffing glue in order to escape their reality.
Sr. Doris proudly showed us the grounds of the center. Each building had been built by Sr. Doris and the boys. They had been part of building this place of refuge. As we entered the garden where the community grows food to eat and sell, Sr. Doris explained the importance of the work the boys do in the garden and in raising the animals. She said it is so important for the boys to be responsible for growing and nurturing life. They encourage the boys to use their gifts and talents in music, cooking, woodworking and crafts. They help the boys to discover their giftedness and to find ways to use these gifts to create a livelihood.
Daniel was one of the first boys to come to the center with Sr. Doris. Now he and another young man, Judan, are preparing to take leadership in the center. While we were at the center, Daniel not only took the time to share his story of survival with our group, he still never neglected his responsibility to all of the boys entrusted to his care. His words of thanks are words that I will never forget. Daniel said, “Thank you for betting on us, not many people do.”
Somewhere down a dusty road live boys worth betting on. They are just kids who have seen, lived, and witnessed more than I can imagine. And yet they are just kids. Sr. Doris is a woman who looked beyond the drugs and alcohol and saw a boy. A boy named Daniel, Allen, David, Sergio, and…. She bets on these boys every day. She walks this journey of discovery with them. They are discovering things like who they are and what it means to grow and be responsible for life. Sr. Doris will soon be able to pass the leadership to the boys who have found success at the center. Next she will work to build a place for girls. But for now she is betting on the boys and offering them an opportunity to experience hope and light.
Reflection written by Carolyn Trumble, Portland Oregon. To learn more about Luz y Esperanza, read this Catholic News Service article.
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