Nam Qom is a suburb of Sáenz Peña in the province Chaco. Star of Hope supports approximately 230 children. The vast majority of them belong to one of Argentina's native population, Toba, the predominant ethnic group in Chaco.
In Argentina Star of Hope works through the Good Shepherd Evangelical Foundation (Fundación Evangélica El Buen Pastor). This relationship has been in effect since 1972.
FEEBP works to provide educational opportunities, social development projects, trade schools and evangelism to the often marginalized Toba Indian population in the Chaco province, about 120 miles north of the capital Buenos Aires. Humanitarian efforts include water, food distribution and emergency support to families in severe need.
This is done primarily through educating children; believing this is the basis for all other development. While working with families, we inform them about their children's right to schooling and what an education can mean, not only for the child but also for society as a whole. It is often difficult to get the children of Indians to attend school on a regular basis because many of them move around to find work. Many follow the cotton harvest or move periodically to live with relatives in the larger cities in search of work. Only about 5 % have steady jobs.
Schooling, Food and Health Care
In Nam Qom there are three State schools. One of the schools was formerly very run down. Star of Hope renovated and expanded it. The school is now both operational and nice. There are also two preschools. Star of Hope has built one school and expanded and improved the other. A kindergarten has also been built for the children of Nam Qom. In Argentina the school system has nine years of compulsory schooling. Even though the schooling is free, the Toba population does not automatically enroll their children. Many find it difficult to see the value of education and children are needed to help support the family. Star of Hope works with the families to address these attitudes and help them recognize the value of an education
Thanks to donor support the children get help to buy school supplies and the mandatory school uniform. Each month, the family also receives a package of basic products such as flour, cooking oil, tea, soaps, etc. The children also receive dental and health care at the clinic Star of Hope built in Nam Qom. The children start preschool when they are 4-5 years old. The language in primary schools is Spanish, which creates problems since most of the Toba children do not speak Spanish. To help in this situation Star of Hope has provided scholarships to train several bilingual teachers and they are available at preschool, primary and high school to support children from the Toba population. After one year at preschool the children begin primary school. They leave school when they are between 14 and 18 years old, depending one when they started. This is usually when they leave our sponsor program. However, there is a possibility for those children wishing to continue studying to continuing to high school and university.
The evangelization continues with the evangelists and Toba pastors who have been helped through the years. The Johansson family continues to work hard with dedication, love and patience in some sectors where syncretism is well established within the Toba culture. Churches are growing through Bible studies, training applicant teachers and future leaders. The present leadership is constantly being strengthened. Churches are growing through continuous evangelistic campaigns where hundreds of people give their hearts to Jesus. They are healed, liberated and restored! The evangelistic work is broad and extracts much to achieve overall success in the people to whom we minister. But it is priceless to see changed lives enjoying the freedom that Jesus gave on the cross! Also, as the sports activities are being carried out with the children and youth, spiritual support is being given to students and technical staff of the "Star" Soccer School.
The city of Saenz Peña and Nam Qom
The population of Saenz Peña is just over 100,000; most of the Toba ethnic group living mainly in the outskirts of town in the poorer areas. They are lacking many public services. That is in the finer neighborhoods there are some smaller houses, constructed of brick but most live in simple mud huts (chozas), with tar treated cardboard as the roof. The province is one of the poorest in the country and it is also the province having the highest infant mortality.
Through our work, we want to give children and their parents the vision that there is a possibility to change the seemingly hopeless situations. In addition to assistance with schooling, the Toba people are affected by the fact that someone from the outside believe in them and treat them with value as human beings.