Children grow best in families. This is true whether a child is born into great wealth or extreme poverty. However, in far too many communities around the world, it is poverty that is preventing children from growing up in the care of a family. Poverty is a driving force that pushes children into orphanages or thrusts them out into a life on the streets, creating social orphans and vulnerable children. Fortunately, local churches and faith-based NGOs around the world are partnering together and responding to the needs of these children in the best possible way: supporting families to provide for their care (see Journeys of Faith, page 4).
Just outside the capital city of Santiago, Chile, one such partnership can be found between Rosa de Sarón Church and Bright Hope International.
In 1996, Pastor Andrea and members of Rosa de Sarón began an afterschool program to serve vulnerable children and youth in the small shantytown of La Pintana. Pastor Andrea felt compassion for the many children spending their days on the streets instead of in a classroom. She understood that the children were in need of consistent care, support, and supervision as many parents were working long hours in informal, unstable, and often illicit jobs to provide for their families. Chile has one of the largest wealth inequalities in the world, and Chilean families living at the lowest end of the economic scale continue to be faced with the seemingly impossible task of freeing their children from the cycle of poverty. The absence of economic advancement eventually drives many parents into a state of hopelessness and depression. Left alone or unattended, their children often retreat to the streets, where gangs, drugs, and violence are commonplace. The streets become a familiar escape, separating children from their families and diverting them away from their education. Rosa de Sarón’s afterschool program has provided a safe and loving alternative for children who would otherwise return to an empty house or retreat to the streets.
After more than ten years serving La Pintana’s vulnerable children and youth through the afterschool program, Pastor Andrea and Rosa de Sarón began a partnership with Bright Hope. Together, they are expanding and deepening the afterschool program’s impact on children and their families. One such family is that of Esther, a young girl living in La Pintana. When Esther began attending the afterschool program, she was living in a broken home with an absent father and a mother suffering from deep depression. However, because of Esther’s involvement in the afterschool program, this is no longer her family’s reality. According to Rachel Silva, Bright Hope’s Partnership Developer in Chile, “The atmosphere in their home has changed from one of darkness and hopelessness to one of hope.”
Esther’s success and that of many like her is seen through the integration of Bright Hope’s three-tiered holistic development model centered around Hope for Today, Hope for Tomorrow, and Hope for Eternity.
Hope for Today is realized when children’s immediate needs are met. Esther and other children have a safe, stable place to go at the end of their school day, on weekends, and on holidays. Children and youth, who would otherwise be left alone or disconnected from their families, receive a healthy meal and stable supervision. Many parents are also awarded the comfort of knowing their children are well looked after while they are working to provide for their families.
Hope for Tomorrow is created through the educational support that Esther and other children receive. The afterschool program offers the attention and encouragement children like Esther need to complete their education and rise out of extreme poverty. With the support of Bright Hope, the church recently launched a multiple intelligence program allowing children, including Esther, to explore their abilities and talents through specially designed, hands-on opportunities.
The church is currently partnering with Bright Hope to develop programs for parents to learn skills that will afford them the opportunity for a more stable and consistent income and a much-needed push out of extreme poverty. Several mothers have begun to take part in a knitting program that the church recently launched.
Hope for Eternity is offered by providing an environment where children can experience the love of Christ, learn the truth of the Gospel, and understand the value they have as children of God. The program also serves as an outreach for the church. By caring for the children in the community, the church is able to connect and build trust with their families, eventually leading to many parents being discipled in their faith. Through the Gospel, children and families have a constant source of comfort for the challenges they face today and a secure future with Christ for all eternity.
This was certainly the case for Esther and her mother, Rosa. Because of Esther’s involvement in the afterschool program, Rosa began attending church with her daughter. Rosa has since become a Christian and has slowly begun to pull out of her depression and become more engaged in her daughter’s life.
By providing Hope for Today, Tomorrow, and Eternity, Pastor Andrea and her church are actively expanding and establishing Bright Hope’s vision of a world where under-resourced, local, in-country churches transform their communities and bring hope to the extreme poor. The afterschool program that began out of one local pastor’s desire to keep children in school and off the streets has grown, in partnership with Bright Hope, into a holistic ministry that is extending beyond the children and into their families and community. As a result, communities are strengthened, parents are empowered, and children are able to complete their education and break free of the cycle of poverty. You can learn more about the family-based strengthening strategies of Bright Hope’s work through the webinar and podcast found on Faith to Action’s website.