Continued from our Field Office Diary of our Autumn Newsletter (Page 8)…
Alex, aged 11, used to spend most of his time on the streets. He would leave the family home without permission, and hang around with other children rather than going to school. Sometimes he would stay on the streets for several nights and take drugs. None of his family knew where he was.
Two years ago Alex came to live at the Albergue for a while after an extended period spent on the streets. When he arrived he was shy and withdrawn; he would barely take part in activities and found it hard to make friends. Counselling sessions, a loving environment and support from the project helped Alex overcome his initial difficulties, make friends – and even a best friend, Daniel – and, through this process, he learnt how to treat others with respect.
Whenever possible, the Albergue will endeavour to help a child return to their family. However, the team are always careful to ensure that the home environment is safe before children go back to their families. When Alex was due to return home, the social worker at the Albergue carried out a visit. The team discovered that Alex’s step father was abusive towards his mother, Martha, and frequently ridiculed her and the children. This had been the cause of Alex’s desire to escape his family home.
To resolve this, the Albergue worked closely with Alex’s family, using activities designed to help Martha explore her role as a mother and strengthen her position of authority within the home. She was helped to lay down rules and establish boundaries for her children and to stand up for herself. Through this group work and individual counselling Martha was, for the first time, encouraged to acknowledge all of her qualities and capabilities, and strengthened her self-esteem to the extent that she decided to separate from her husband.
Alex and his two sisters are now happy to be at home. They don’t need to escape to the streets to avoid the shouting, violence and chaos. They all go to school regularly, help around the home and are much better behaved – Martha even took them all out to the park and bought them ice creams last Sunday as a special treat for their good behaviour.
The Albergue is working to keep children like Alex safe from the dangers of living and working on the streets ofBogota, not only for a short while, but for good. They do this by working with the families of children, helping them to provide the home environment that their children need. COTA is supporting this post-institutional care part of the programme, ensuring that families are able to care for their children upon their return.
To support the work of all our partners including the Albergue, please make a donation today.
Thank you for supporting COTA’s work in Colombia.