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Paraguayan children's centre nurtures society's most vulnerable

Paraguayan children's centre nurtures society's most vulnerable

Paraguayan children's centre nurtures society's most vulnerable

Playing together and enjoying time outside is an important activity for the children at El Redil children's centre.

By Simone Worthing

Abject poverty, social disintegration, drug lords, child labour and sex trafficking are daily threats to thousands of children in the South American nation of Paraguay. Many of these children live on the streets, don’t go to school, are malnourished, and are easy prey for abuse of every conceivable kind.

The Salvation Army’s “El Redil” Children’s Centre, located in Paraguay’s capital, Asunción, is working to change the lives, and communities, of the children in its care. The home has been operating since 1944.

In Spanish, El Redil means a fold, somewhere safe where shepherds guide their sheep to. It also refers to a church, a safe and protected place where people congregate.

Several Australian donors are generously assisting in the support of this home, through child sponsorship. The home has also put strategies into place to become increasingly self-supporting.

El Redil houses 40 children aged between three and 18. Most of the children come from highly dysfunctional families, conditions of extreme poverty, and are at risk of homelessness, abuse, malnutrition and child trafficking. Some children have only one parent who has to work elsewhere in Paraguay or in another country. Some are orphans. Others have been abandoned by their parents.

The centre offers children a safe, clean and comfortable environment where their physical, spiritual, social, educational and emotional needs are met. The focus is on providing a temporary place where children can live, learn, thrive and prepare for the future, while any existing family rebuilds their circumstances with the hope of linking back with their children in the future.

Children at El Redil enjoy music lessons, as well as sports, art, and crafts - alongside their regular education.

“Without El Redil, most of the children here would be living on the streets,” says Claudia Franchetti, Projects and Sponsorships Officer. “We work as a big family where everybody has responsibilities and benefits. We try to avoid the institutionalisation of the children through our varied and motivating programs, and having very clear objectives about linking them back with their families.

“Most of the children go home during weekends to keep their family ties alive. However, up to 10 adolescent girls stay at the home the entire time because their family situations are too dangerous or difficult, and the girls would be put at risk.

“These girls follow their own ‘Teens Project’ during weekends, where they develop specific life skills to prepare them for living their adult lives in a responsible way.”

Children at El Redil also benefit from a nutritious diet, good medical care and a broad education. They enjoy a well-maintained outdoor area and regular artistic, recreational and sports activities.

The Children’s Home is well known and respected in the local community. Volunteers serve at the home, and local schools often donate food, clothing and other items for the centre. El Redil invites their neighbours “to be part of the family” on open days and for market fairs. Former residents also visit the children.

Volunteers, including Salvationists, from around the world, regularly serve at El Redil. “Some of these volunteers have had their lives transformed by the love of God here, and others have received the calling for officership in The Salvation Army,” shares Claudia.

“We share the love of Jesus with the children every day, as we live with them, and also share our Christian testimony with their families. One of our main objectives is that the kids, and then their relatives, accept Jesus as their personal saviour and that this may completely transform their lives.”

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