Churches in Chile are working together to create a network of host families to help provide shelter for vulnerable children. The Welcome Movement, which is supported by the Diocese of Chile, part of the Anglican Church of South America, held a conference last month as they sought to recruit “Families of Specialised Shelters”. The overarching message from the conference was that “it is time we loved not only in words, but with concrete actions for our children.”
Around 500 people took part in the conference, which was organised jointly by members of Christian churches of various denominations. The event, in Santiago, had the objective of raising a support network for the country’s children, and the promotion of the Host Families Programme of the National Service for Minors, (SENAME), which seeks to protect and deliver a temporary home for children whose rights have been violated while defining their protection status.
The movement “was born from the heart of God and that is why in less than three months they have mobilised so many people,” Otoniel Loyola, the youth pastor at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Las Condes, said. “God is interested in childhood. He is Father of orphans and the time has come for the Church to be more proactive. . . Let us understand that reaching a life potentially means a generational transformation. It is better to prepare children’s lives today with the love of Christ to repair adult lives tomorrow.”
Participants at the conference heard about the Host Families Programme, and the positive impact it is having on vulnerable children, especially on children who have been subjected to various forms of abuse, such as abandonment and physical and psychological violence. And they heard about how a child benefits more from being in a family that accepts them, than by being looked after in an institutional centre.
“The institution is not the best place to receive such a small child,” Dr Eduardo Jaar, a psychiatrist and child psychoanalyst, told the conference. “It is known that the baby needs a significant personal bond and a family for its development. In fact, the recommendation of the World Health Organisation is that children under three-years-old are not institutionalised.”
The conference also heard from current participants in the Programme. Claudio Moya and Macarena Loyola have two children – four-year-old Daniel and two-year-old Amanda. They recently welcomed an eight-month-old girl, Florcita, into their home. The experience was an “adventure that has not been easy but at the same time it has been a blessing,” Macarena said. “We did not know anything about her and it was like starting to meet a newborn baby from scratch.
“Florcita came home very sick and damaged but now she smiles, plays and enjoys. She arrived as when one arrives at Christianity, full of wounds and illnesses, and God little by little cleanses you and gives life.”
Another current participant, 30-year-old pre-school teacher Dominique Berrier, said: “I had always thought about adoption and I knew that being single would not be possible, so I looked for ways to contribute to society with a grain of sand.”
She took in a girl, just under three-years old, who “changed her life and priorities 100 per cent,” she said. “I’m very clear that we’re going to have a very bad time on the day we split up, but my consolation is that I always think that if she leaves my house, she’ll go to something much better.”