Education, vocational skills, and active participation as vehicles to empowerment: the impact of non-governmental organizations on street children in La Paz, Bolivia

Melissa Rosales

Document Type Dissertation/Thesis


This paper investigates the role non-governmental organizations (NGOs) play in empowering street children to improve their lives. There are four types of objectives the NGOs attempt to achieve with the children: meeting both their short and long-term needs, providing them access to primary and secondary schooling, offering them vocational skill workshops, and engendering in them a sense of active participation in the betterment of their lives. Despite their efforts, NGOs have been the object of much criticism, the prevailing critique being that NGOs fail to address the real issues at hand. Four projects in La Paz, Bolivia serve as the case studies with which I evaluated the merit of this critique. I found certain indicators proving that membership in these programs resulted in greater empowerment of the street children in the areas examined. Specifically, former street children have emerged with a heightened self-esteem and level of happiness; many have made a successful transition from the informal to formal economy through education and vocational skill training; they have gained control of their money and have begun to choose how to save or spend it, and most importantly they now have a greater hope for the future. Using an alternative measuring system, I discovered that some NGOs are effectively helping street children in their plight.