“My greatest accomplishments I live every day: Seeing the lives of the children rescued from the streets and having a life with dignity.”
Claudia Gonzales Moreno first devoted her life to needy children when she was 19. As a young civil engineering student, she roamed the streets of La Paz, meeting the children who lived in the parks, graveyards and sewers. Although it took years of time and patience, the children learned to trust Gonzales. In 1993, she used her own resources to rent a house in downtown La Paz. The house became a home to 40 boys who received food, shelter, health care, education and social support. Together, they named the home Alalay, which means “I feel cold” in memory of the many nights the children spent in the streets.
Today, Alalay has expanded, taking care of more than 11,000 children each year. These children use a therapeutic model developed by Gonzales to overcome histories of violence, abuse and discrimination. The model has proved so successful it is being implemented in other regions of Latin America.
In 1999, Gonzales created an elementary and technical high school called Nuevo Amanecer to provide children living in extreme poverty a quality education without social, economic or gender discrimination. She also created a Web-based school for the many child workers, street children and impoverished children of La Paz, enabling 200 children to receive an education through the Internet. Gonzales’ success with street children over the past 16 years has been extraordinary. Soon she will move to Brazil and begin working with the 3 million street children of Rio de Janeiro.