Rescuing a child from the streets is harder than you think

The following situations are based on the real experiences of street outreach workers in the city of La Paz. This is your chance to put yourself in their shoes and see how you would cope in their situation. Be warned, it can be thankless work. We hope that when you see what it’s like as an outreach worker, you will consider making a donation to support their vital work.


Your first job as a street outreach worker is to get the attention of the children in the area. You know you can offer them a better life away from the street. But you need them to listen to you. How do you plan to start?

To go to places where the street children live and explain how you can offer them a better life To set up regular games of football in the neighbourhood

After a few weeks, one of the bigger children approaches you at one of your outreach events. He threatens you. He says you don’t belong in this part of town and that you’ve no right to talk to the children here. He insults you. How do you react?

To ask this child not to come to your outreach events any more, and then focus on more receptive children To offer the child something to eat and drink To tell the local police that you’ve been threatened

You’ve been working with the children for months when, one day, a child comes to tell you that David has been arrested for theft and has been put into juvenile detention. What do you do upon hearing the news?

To go to the police station to find David and plead his case To gather the remaining children together and explain that breaking the law is wrong and David has to be punished for his actions

You get a phone call in the middle of the night. It’s David. He’s calling you from a public phone. He says he’s been hurt in a fight with an older boy. How do you respond?

To tell David that it’s not appropriate to call your personal number at this time and see him in the morning To jump out of bed, get dressed, and rush to help David as quickly as you can

Many months have passed, and your loyalty to David is starting to pay off. He’s beginning to confide in you. He tells you that he’s on the streets because he was abused at home. He says he’s interested in going to school and leaving the streets behind. You sense this might be your big chance. What’s your next move?

To arrange for David to go to the refuge immediately, while he’s in such a positive mood To wait a bit longer to see how things develop

You go to where the children live and talk to them. But they are very suspicious of strange adults. Traffickers and slave traders also come to them with promises of a better life. The children run away from you.

To start again To admit defeat

Well done! Outreach work often starts by providing activities that children enjoy. Your decision to start regular football games in the neighbourhood captures the children’s attention. They attend regularly, and start to accept you as a presence in their lives. Now you can talk to them and identify their needs.

To keep up the good work

You ban the bigger child from the group. However, in the weeks that follow, he starts to turn the other children against you. It turns out that this child is an influential character, and something of a leader among the children. He resents that you have reacted negatively to his cry for attention. Your outreach work has just become much more difficult.

To try again To admit defeat

You give the boy a sandwich and a carton of juice. He grudgingly accepts and starts to calm down. The other children tell you that the boy’s name is David, and that he’s one of the leaders of their group. David looks at you suspiciously as he eats his food, but his anger seems to have subsided for now.

To keep up the good work

A bad decision. This is a child you are dealing with, and you have entered his environment of your own free will. Even if the police could find him, which they won’t (you don’t know his name or where he lives), your actions could have put him and the other children in the area at risk.

To try again To admit defeat

This is a very bold decision, but the right one. Police sometimes arrest children simply to clear them off the streets – even when they’ve done nothing wrong. You tell the officer on duty that you work with David. The officer reluctantly agrees to release him into your care. David is amazed that you’ve stood up for him. You give David your phone number in case he needs it in future. He says thank you.

To keep up the good work

A bad choice. The children told you about David because they trust you, not because they want a lesson in morality. You lose credibility by taking the side of the authorities so quickly. Street children are not protected by the law, and can be treated badly by police – often for doing nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now you may never see David again.

To try again To admit defeat

This is not what an outreach worker would do. Our team in La Paz know that the night is often the most dangerous time for street children. David might be seriously injured, and he’s turned to you in his hour of need. He feels enormous rejection at your response. He won’t turn to you next time.

To try again To admit defeat

Another excellent decision. Outreach workers often go beyond the call of duty for street children – doing whatever they can to help them. When you get to David, it’s obvious he needs urgent medical attention. You take him to the hospital for treatment – the doctors wouldn’t see him without you, as his birth is not officially registered.

To keep up the good work

This is the wrong decision. When you tell David that you have made the arrangements for him to go into a children’s refuge, you scare him off. He’s not ready to leave his friends and his life, and he feels you’ve pressured him into a decision. You have to cancel the arrangements you’ve made and try to rebuild your relationship with David.

To try again To admit defeat

A sensible choice. We all want these children to leave the streets as soon as possible. But, ultimately, the decision has to be made by the child. As an outreach worker, the best you can do is let them know their options, and try to encourage them to make the right decision. Hang in there – you’re doing well!

To keep up the good work

Outreach work isn’t easy, but don’t let that discourage you. Very few people can do it. It takes superhuman patience, courage, empathy and compassion to work directly with street children in La Paz. But don’t lose heart, as our outreach workers can only do what they do thanks to your donations. So you do have what it takes to rescue a child from the streets, after all.

To find out more

After months of working with David, he finally asks you if you would arrange for him to go into the children’s refuge in La Paz. He has listened to you, and thought about what you’ve told him. He says he doesn’t want to die on the streets, and he wants to try and make something of his life. Well done! Your decision-making may have saved this young boy’s life, and influenced many others.


There’s only one more life-saving decision for you to make. Please will you help rescue a child from the streets of La Paz for real, by sending a donation to support our street outreach team in Bolivia? Your gift will help us show street children that there is a better life away from the streets.

Make a donation to fund our outreach work