The first thing you’d notice while visiting Santa Cruz, Bolivia, would have to be the young children begging and sleeping on the sides of the streets. It’s similar to what you might see in cities like San Francisco, Detroit or Portland. But these are kids.
One of them in particular, reminded me of my son.
I was in the backseat of a taxi when I heard a child say to the driver, “Por favor, senor, ayudame” (please, sir, help me). The child looked like my son Sebastian, and I thought to myself, “Imagine if this child were my child.” I reached over to roll down the window while digging into my pocket for some money. I was too late.
The light changed, the driver sped ahead, and I had lost my opportunity to help that little boy. In that moment, I knew I needed to do something.
Relating this emotional experience to one of my students, I explained how I had wanted to give the boy money for something to eat. She told me “No professor, don’t give them money. They’ll only give it to an irresponsible parent, a pimp, or they will use it to buy drugs.” I asked her what she does when the children approach her, and she told me that she keeps a box of cookies in her car. When approached, she gives the orphans cookies.
This intention led me to create “Cookies for Kids”, an organization committed to helping the street children of Santa Cruz.
On our first mission, Michael Lozano (a photographer) and I spent 18 days in Santa Cruz intending to document the conditions of the children in the streets, and formulate a program to help them. What we found was heartbreaking; the children were diseased, or high on drugs, and many were the slaves of pseudo-parents who had adopted them as orphans for the purpose of begging.
Visiting local orphanages, Michael and I realized we could help the orphans live better lives. pursue higher education and become productive citizens, breaking the cycle of orphans producing more orphans.
Local orphanages provide as much education as they can, but that education ends at early adulthood. The orphans then end up back on the streets.
We have learned that the best way possible to help the children of Santa Cruz is to provide emotional support, physical necessities, and educational opportunities with the goal of ultimately enabling each child to pursue a college degree. To deliver on our promise, Cookies for Kids has been re-launched as Orphan2Uni. Thank you for supporting our cause and making a difference.