ÑEMBY, Paraguay – A refuge in the town of Ñemby, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Asuncion, offers children and teens living on the streets, due to domestic violence or other family conflicts, the chance to live a normal life.
The Ñemity Communal Pedagogic Center is a Paraguayan refuge for minors who have been surviving on the streets after running away from home.
Since 2009 at least 1,200 children and teenagers have benefited from the Painac project, of which the Ñemity Center forms a part, and which rehabilitates, reeducates, detoxes them if necessary, and reintegrates them into society, all funded by the National Childhood and Adolescence Secretariat, or SNNA.
Ñemity’s main goal is to help these minors, between 8 and 17 years old, return home once they are prepared for reintegration into society.
If necessary, the youngsters can be prepared for integration into a new family or, if they are going to turn 18 while at the refuge, they can even be trained for their future independent release.
The institute is surrounded by nature and is far away from the urban realities they previously suffered.
There are four residence facilities and a school building where they are taught music, basic education, dressmaking and tailoring. There is also a small space where teachers help the youngsters care for farm animals like chickens and pigs.
All is aimed at providing a successful rehab program that lasts between one and two years while prohibiting the use of mobile phones, tobacco, alcohol and drugs.
Many who lived on the streets picked up the habit of using cheap drugs like sniffing glue, the technical coordinator of the Painac program, Jorge Amarilla, told EFE.
Those that figure in Painac statistics are first sent to a refuge where a social assistant examines them and decides whether they need a 30-day detox treatment at a specialized center.
If not, they are sent to a Temporary Protection Center where for two or three months they are prepared by psychologists and educators to enter Ñemity.
But the success of the program is based, according to Amarilla, on the fact that it is the street kids themselves who promote participation in Painac.
In fact, of every 10 youngsters who enter the program, eight do it of their own free will, Amarilla said.