A Welcome Home for Abandoned Girls
Before little Veronica ever stepped foot inside the Hogar María Auxiliadora in Bolivia, Salesian volunteer Eden Gordon was determined the child would learn one thing if nothing else: exactly what it felt like to be loved. And there’s no doubt Veronica got the message!
Eden is a returned Salesian Lay Missioner who lived and worked with orphaned and abandoned girls at “the Hogar,” a long-term residential home that offers a safe, structured setting where these precious girls can grow into independent and self-sufficient young women. As many as 45 girls ages 2-17 live there at any given time.
Located in a rural community about a half hour outside Cochabamba, the Salesian-run Hogar is less a traditional orphanage and more a respite house. “Many of the girls do have families, and staff work to reunite them whenever possible,” says Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions, who explains that widespread poverty and lack of employment opportunities throughout Bolivia often mean that parents can’t afford to feed or care for their children. “If reunification isn’t possible,” he continues, “these girls truly do grow up at the Hogar, where everyone there becomes their new family.”
Veronica arrived when she was just six years old, abandoned by her parents without understanding why.
Instinctively, Eden knew she needed to reassure this dear little girl of her worth. So she played a daily game with Veronica in the weeks leading up to her move into the residence Eden supervised. “Vero, when are you coming to live with me at the Hogar?” Eden would ask. “When are you coming? I’m waiting! How much longer do I have to wait?” The game instilled such confidence that on the day of her move, Veronica marched in with a big grin on her face. Eden even nicknamed her Querida, from the Spanish “to love.” Every time she hears it, Veronica understands its truth.
Today, thanks to the compassionate service of our Salesians and lay missioners like Eden, Veronica and her peers are thriving at the Hogar. With their basic needs met, they’ve rediscovered their childhoods and are reclaiming their dreams for the future. The girls also have opportunities to pursue an education, play sports, participate in a variety of activities, and learn skills that will benefit them for a lifetime.
The Hogar is one of several Salesian-run programs serving homeless youth throughout Bolivia.
Our mission helps homeless children feel loved and worthy. What’s your mission?
Learn more about our work in Bolivia.