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A Bolivian Baking German Rolls...

Foundation Arco Iris: A Home and a Job for Street Children in Bolivia

"Arco Iris" means: rainbow, the biblical symbol of the covenant
" Arco Iris" heißt: Regenbogen, biblisches Bundessymbol
Wilbert from Bolivia - working in a German bakery
Wilbert aus Bolivien - Praktikum in einer deutschen Bäckerei
Pfarrer Josef Neuenhofer, Begründer von Arco Iris
Father Joseph Neuenhofer, Founder of Arco Iris
Fotos: I. Springer © 2001

(Ingrid Springer) Wilbert, a young man from Bolivia, in spring 2001 made a practical in a bakery in Germany. In La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, he runs a bakery where 12 young people are currently trained. Former street children like him. The source of this success story is the Foundation "Arco Iris", rainbow, founds by German Schoenstatt priest Joseph Neuenhofer; approximately 1,200 children in La Paz are presently in the care of Arco Iris.

Saturday morning, 4:00 AM in the bakery Schröer in Nordwalde, Northern Germany: 10,000 rolls are to be made, as well as numerous sorts of bread and cake. The team is busy working, with high spirits and concentration as time is short. In between, a young Bolivian, working hand in hand with his German colleagues as if he had ever been there.

His colleagues like him. Although he does not know German, he quickly understood the different work processes in the bakery, his help his appreciated. "I'd like to keep him," says his boss, "he learns quickly and enjoys his job!" Wilbert, the young Bolivian, is happy and goes on with his work. "I love to bake German rolls," he says.

Living in the Streets

During a break, Wilbert shares his story - it does not take much time, his story is typical and could be that of hundreds of children who end in the streets. He was 10 when his parents sent him to live with his uncle - they had many children and were too poor to raise them all. Wilbert is not welcome in his uncle's house; he is beaten frequently. Wilbert tried to live with another uncle, but again the same treatment. He tried to find other relatives, is caught by the police, and put into the children's jail, as he had no papers. Here, he got to know other street children and stayed with them. From then, he lived in the streets - with all the consequences: being hungry, dirty, facing violence, drugs, prostitution, and crime. This was his life for six years - without a home, without a family, always hungry. It is a situation that seems to not bear any hope to begin anew. In La Paz, Wilbert got into contact with the German "Padre José" and the foundation ARCO IRIS. Slowly, the priest won the boy's confidence. Father Neuenhofer has time for the children, listens to them. Wilbert finally accepted the Father's offer to move into the shelter he has built, to go to school again and to start anew in an atmosphere of hope and confidence. It's not a story of a constant success - like many others, also Wilbert experienced set backs, but finally, he got the inner strength for a new life.

Hope for Children Like Wilbert

A retired baker went to Bolivia to help train some of the former street children; machines were donated from Germany. Wilbert was one of the first to be trained. Meanwhile, he runs this bakery and passes on his skills to 12 youth, former street children like himself. With the money that comes in, this bakery provides funds for the shelters. Wilbert's stay in Germany was meant to help improve his skills. Wilbert used the time well. "I'd like to found a filiation," the 22-year-old proudly states. He has experienced the reality of a life in the streets and wants to help many others. Donations from Germany helped and continue to help children like Wilbert in Bolivia.

Arco Iris has a number of micro enterprises that provide jobs and training for a number of young people, giving them new perspectives for their life.

Arco Iris - not just a social hobby

For Father Josef Neuenhofer (Schoenstatt Priests' Federation), his work in Bolivia is a dream come true. In 1992, he went there in order to work in a big parish. He founded ARCO IRIS and also worked for the growing Schoenstatt Movement in Bolivia. In Achumani, the first Schoenstatt Shrine in Bolivia was built. For Father Neuenhofer, his work for ARCO IRIS is not just a "social hobby", but born from the Schoenstatt spirituality as a synthesis of confidence in the work of the Blessed Mother as the educator and the one who guarantees the dignity of human life, and of the urge to act in responsibility as her and God's instruments.

The Rainbow - Symbol of the Covenant

The basic goals of the foundation with the name and the symbol of the rainbow, the symbol of the Covenant, are taken from the concept of Father Joseph Kentenich, the founder of Schoenstatt. The his Marian pedagogy of confidence and trust works in the extreme situation, motivating again and again to accept each one with love and trust, to pass on to each one the awareness of dignity and value, and to lead from self-esteem to inner freedom and the ability and readiness to lead a Christian life of responsibility for oneself and others. This is the Schoenstatt way - the "new man in the new community" cannot become reality in an oasis far from real life, but in the real world; the way to God is a way in solidarity with people. Arco Iris, like so many other initiatives born from this spirituality, demonstrates that it is possible to make a difference and "to move the mountains".

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Last Update: 28.06.2001 13:04 Mail: Editor /Webmaster
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