Profile - Victoria Arce - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Victoria Arce

Year Joined MKLM:

Country: Bolivia

City: Cochabamba

Ministry: Hogar Nuestra Casa

Ministry Area: Justice and Peace

Goal of Ministry: Promoting healing and reintegration and providing comprehensive services to girls and adolescent women, ages 9 to 17, who were subjected to domestic sexual violence. The center hopes to prepare survivors to be protagonists of change at the personal, family and social levels.

Ministry Context:

Bolivia has the highest rate of sexual violence in Latin America. One in three girls experience sexual violence before age 18. Seventy percent of Bolivian women are survivors of sexual or physical violence. The country also has some of the region’s lowest reporting rates for these crimes. And those who do make the choice to come forward often face tremendous barriers to accessing justice.

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of girls experiencing violence and early pregnancy increased in Bolivia, generating a situation of vulnerability that endangers the future and the lives of women and girls.


Current Ministry:

I started my ministry at Hogar Nuestra Casa in March. I participate with them in their daily activities and accompany them to medical, dental and other appointments. I also accompany them on extracurricular, exploratory and fun activities outside of the Hogar.

I have also begun to provide vocational assessment and counseling services. Initially I worked with three current and five past residents. Now I am actively working with four — two current and two former residents. I will also start assisting with life skills, which will help them to live independently in Bolivia.

The adolescents are able to complete a short-term vocational training while at the Hogar so they will have an income to support themselves once they age out. At this point, options are limited to cosmetology, culinary arts and graphic design. I am encouraging them to explore other options as well.

One of the adolescents who is working on her cosmetology certificate completed two online assessments. Matching her personality traits, interests, and work values, both assessments identified a career in the judicial system as an appropriate match. She was very excited. Her long-term goals are to get a law degree and, after working for the Defensoria (public defender’s office), become a judge overseeing cases involving sexual abuse of minors. I am now exploring opportunities for her to job-shadow people currently in those positions. I hope she will not lose sight of her goals in spite of the challenges she will face and the great time commitment. I have enjoyed seeing her confidence blossom as she looks toward her future. In the meantime, she is a very talented stylist.


Personal Data:

I retired from the County of Santa Barbara in California after more than 25 years, 24 of them in employment services with the Department of Social Services and one year working with juvenile offenders in the Probation Department. I enjoyed a very challenging yet fulfilling career, giving hope to the hopeless, focusing on their strengths and empowering them to create the lives they and their families deserved.

Being a single parent, I faced many of the same challenges as my clients. I knew the difference a good job could make in their lives and was very motivated to assist them with identifying a potential career path and getting the education, training and experience they needed. The hardest part was getting them to believe in themselves. Watching them develop self-confidence was one of the best parts of the job.

I have felt a need to give back in thanksgiving for the many blessings in my life. I looked for volunteer opportunities that would combine my passion for travel and provide the opportunity to improve my Spanish fluency, which I plan to continue to use in volunteer opportunities for the rest of my life. I initially thought I would volunteer for three to six months, but God had other plans. I can’t believe how everything has fallen into place for me in Bolivia and that I found a ministry site where I am able to use my work experience and specific skill set.