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Verónica Arriagada


Year Joined MKLM: 2018

Country: Bolivia

City: Cochabamba

Ministry: Apoyo Escolar (school support) program. Centro Integral Santa Vera Cruz

Ministry Area: Education & Leadership Development

Ministry Goals:

to grow the students’ self-esteem through values that will improve their lives and their environment; to help them avoid consumerism and encourage them to pursue positive goals in their lives and families.

Ministry Context:

We work with children from one of the poorest areas of Cochabamba, known as Zona Sur. Many of the children come from families headed by one parent or a close relative—grandmothers, aunts or an older brother. Many of them come from other regions of Bolivia and had to migrate to Cochabamba in search of a better quality of life. Many mothers of these children have emigrated to other countries such as Spain, Argentina and Chile.

Current Ministry:

My work focuses on helping children develop their self-esteem and contributing to their pursuit of happiness. In the morning I work mainly with young children who are not yet of school age. Through music and songs we invite them to learn, value study and discover the world. I help and support the teachers of the support center, but above all help children and young people in their personal growth. I encourage the children to discover the world through songs, games, handicrafts and especially by reinforcing values that will make their life in society easier and that are indispensable to their growth.

The Centro Integral Santa Vera Cruz is part of the ministry of Maryknoll Father Paul Sykora and provides school support in three community centers: Centro Nueva Vera Cruz, Centro San Francisco Javier and Centro Tinkuna Wasi.

Personal Data:

My motivation to join Maryknoll has been to give back to those who once gave to me. To me, Maryknoll’s mission and vision of lay missioners is most of all a call to build the kingdom of God here on earth by working with the poorest and the neediest. I recognize the importance of working with these children because their chances to get ahead and have a better quality of life are very limited.

I find great value in just being able to be with them, talk to them and hear their storiesso many of them already carry a heavy burden of trauma or tragediessharing their lives and showing them that studying and acquiring wisdom, and sharing with and respecting others are very important in life. God invites us to work for the most needy, and I believe that in our society children are among the most vulnerable, exploited and marginalized.

We owe it to marginalized children to pay more attention to them. And as the Uruguayan writer Mario Benedetti says, “Childhood is sometimes a paradise lost, but at other times, it is a hell of s**t.”