by Noelle Broyles
A verse in the Bible tells us that what “every person desires is unfailing love”. This is true for every person, in every culture, and in every family. This is especially true for children who are orphans, or who have been hurt, abused, or abandoned by the very family members who should have loved and protected them.
For over 17 years Foundation Arco Iris (FAI) has provided a home, a family environment, love, guidance, education, and support to thousands of these children. Here is a letter from a young girl written to Fr. Jose Neuenhofer (the founder of FAI) thanking him for the help she’s received…
Father, this letter is about my life. If I did not dare to tell you my life before, it was due to fear and shame. Life in my house was a hell, because I was raped by my stepfather since I was very young. He would always hit me a lot. Every day all that he would give us was a piece of bread. He would send us to the trash to look for something to eat, and if we did not find anything, we would beat us with a stick and with a belt. When he got home drunk, he would always abuse me, and if I wouldn’t let him, he would beat me and tell my mother that she had not taught me how to be a woman. My mother would tell him that I was only 5 years old but he would nevertheless continue to abuse me. One night my stepfather threw my mother out of bed. She stopped breathing and was agonizing. He choked her and my mother died. The next day, my uncles came to the burial. They put me in a home of the Foundation Arco Iris. Thanks to you my life changed. Now I have a family, a roof, enough food and I can go to school. Thank you, Father Jóse, for helping me so much. With all my heart, “Petra”
Throughout these past four months, I have had the privilege to get to know, love, encourage, and walk alongside dozens of these girls who live in the FAI orphanage or in the home for teenage moms. They all enter the FAI homes sharing life stories similar to the one above. They begin their lives with the same dreams that are common to all young girls…yet they have endured unthinkable wounds that have shattered their hopes. These scars whisper to them lies that tell them that they are forever damaged, not valuable, that no one cares for them, and that their lives are hopeless. But these girls possess great strengths.
When provided with an environment of safety, hope, and love…the very strengths that enabled them to survive the horrific abuse can resurface and be utilized to instill within them the courage to heal, trust again, dream again, and develop the essential life skills for a productive life. FAI – with its compassionate and trained staff of social workers, psychologists, educators, and volunteers – is truly helping to restore hope in these girls’ hearts and lives.
HOPE worldwide – Bolivia is looking forward to developing ways to support and encourage the great work of FAI by utilizing our volunteer resources from throughout the world. Initial plans are currently being explored as to how to best utilize volunteers with various skills to help meet identified needs within the FAI social program.