Editor’s note: Missioner Anna Klonowski shares about her work at the CUBE social center in Bolivia and the children there whom she has formed friendships with.
One of the highlights of my week is spending several days with the kids and adolescents at Centro Una Brisa de Esperanza (CUBE), or, in English, Center a Breeze of Hope. CUBE provides free legal, counseling, and social resources for children and adolescents who have experienced sexual violence.
I go to CUBE to help with the social programming, which provides the kids with a place to get comfortable with their surroundings again in a fun, safe environment. The center has activities going on throughout the week like baking, hairstyling, and yoga classes, but they also have several rooms for free-time activities, which is where I end up spending most of my time. Some of the kids I play with are there because they have experienced sexual violence. They come into the room in the time between their counseling and legal sessions. Other kids are the children of teenage girls who drop their young children off in the free space and then attend a class with girls their own age.
Since the goal of the social programming is to give the kids a space where they feel comfortable, I don’t talk with the kids about why they are there. Instead, we play games, run around, and occasionally do homework.
I love playing with the kids, and it warms my heart that they are excited to see me, too. While photos aren’t allowed at the center, here is a look into some of the fun-loving, energetic kids I get to spend my time with.
Marcos* is a 3-year-old boy who loves hula-hooping, which means that he throws the hula hoop around himself and wiggles while it falls to the ground. He doesn’t talk yet, but he knows what he wants. Typically, what he wants is to take apart puzzles he doesn’t know how to put back together.
Leticia* is my personal hairstylist (which is what she wants to be when she grows up). The photo to the right is the latest way she styled my hair. She is a sweet 13-year-old whose favorite food is all vegetables.
Simón* is a busy 7-year-old who loves running, kicking soccer balls, and organizing games for the other kids at the center. He is very smart, and he speeds through his homework so he can get up and running again as soon as possible.
Ana María* is a spunky 7-year-old who loves cooking me delicious imaginary foods in her restaurant, where she is the head chef, server, cashier and manager. The restaurant runs very efficiently and the service is amazing—I highly recommend a visit.
These kids are so full of energy and life. It is a blessing to be around them, and I am grateful that CUBE offers them a place to be so fully themselves. Their joy is an example to me in my own life on mission.
Reflection Question: How do those around you inspire you to change and grow in joy, life, and laughter?
*Names of the children have been changed to protect their privacy.