Parents for Street Kids


This year, we say good-bye to Ralf and Elke Steinmetz, two pioneers of our work in South America.

In Paraguay, the two have worked for more than 20 years to lay the foundation for our current projects there. During this time, they cared for countless street children and made a lasting impact on the lives of their charges. 

Homeless children are a common sight on the streets of Paraguay's capital Asunción. Asunción's central bus station has been a gathering place for street children from all over the country who have washed up there looking for work or fleeing violence and crime. To provide a response to this plight of children, Ralf and Elke first opened the "Kids' House" at the bus terminal in 2000. It provided a safe place for the children to sleep without fear of assault and to receive a hot meal. For countless nights, Ralf and Elke took care of the children. "They are looking for someone to love them, to look out for them, and to believe that they have a future," Elke says. Once, when a criminal gang of children stole the tools of an acquaintance of Ralf and Elke's, the acquaintance got the stolen goods back within a very short time. The thieves had noticed that he was a friend of "those from the bus terminal" and returned everything to him.

When the first children expressed their wish to get off the streets, Ralf and Elke set up a Transformation House in Ñemby, a suburb of Asunción. There, along with other children, José also found shelter. He had run away from his mother as a child. After a few months on the streets, he ended up on a radio program, where they were looking for a new home for him. The only ones to come forward were Ralf and Elke's team. They offered José to move to the Transformation House. "I didn't want to live anywhere else," he says. "The adults there were like parents to me. They helped me finish school and develop a perspective for my life."

Other children like José also found a safe haven at the Transformation House. The team was even able to get one child out of the prison where he had been placed because none of the relatives wanted to take care of the child and there was nowhere else for him to go. In the meantime, the children that Ralf and Elke took in are all grown up. Ralf and Elke have placed their work in the hands of a new team. They will devote themselves to new tasks in Argentina and will continue to work within the ministry with a different focus. We would like to sincerely thank Ralf and Elke for their many years of investment.