“It doesn’t matter which religion you believe in, as long as you help the poor.”
– SISTER PILAR
When I visited Villa Emilia in the spring of 2016, I was greeted by smiling children and mothers who lined the Home’s driveway leading to its community center, where the kids sang songs and read poems of welcome.
Villa Emilia is a special place. The head of the Home, Sister Pilar, and the other Sisters that run Villa Emilia pull women off the streets of Santa Cruz, Bolivia who otherwise have nowhere to live and have turned to work in prostitution as their only means to provide for their children.
Sister Pilar gives these women a safe place to stay and offers them a job in the garment factory on the property, where they make school uniforms that are sold to generate money to run the home. The well-kept grounds and small dorm-style living facilities offer women and their children refuge from tough street life. Children can attend local schools and have for the first time in some of their lives a stable living environment. Most importantly, Villa Emilia provides a lifeline for the families. The sisters serve as positive role models for the women, allowing them to become positive role models for their children, thus breaking the generational spiral of poverty, homelessness and crime.
The heart of Villa Emilia
At 78-year-old, Sister Pilar is the heart of Villa Emelia. She devoted her life to helping the poor regardless of their background or beliefs. Her first and foremost focus is on providing concrete support, with all other considerations coming second.
More than 70 children are in the Villa Emilia program, and Sister Pilar takes care of them all, along with their mothers. During their stay at Villa Emilia, the women learn to look up to and trust Sister Pilar and they work hard to prove themselves and to “graduate” from the transitional program. Once the families are ready, they transition into permanent housing. The homes are initially owned by the Sisters but the women buy them for their own, using their wages to pay the mortgages and thus learning about budgeting and homeownership.
New homes for families in need
Once in their new homes, some of the women stay on working at the sisters’ factory, while others land jobs on the outside. Either way, they become the proud owners of small, modern houses built close together on a large, subdivided plot. The neighborhood allows the families, who have become friends and colleagues, to stay together in schools, commuter buses and workplaces.
We are proud to feature Villa Emelia as one of Begin Giving’s featured charities. If you would like to find out more about Villa Emilia or support their work, contact us today.