By the age of eight, Tito had lost both his parents. He was determined not to be separated from his brother and sister, as well.
As the oldest sibling, Tito considered it his responsibility to keep the family together, so he demanded that his social workers find them an alternative care arrangement that would make that possible.
"I used to tell people that to separate us was like breaking our heart apart. We were little children but we had the same rights as any other child and we deserved to be asked about our future or who we wanted to live with," he says.
His courage in defense of his rights paid off and the children were referred to our village community in Palo Alto, Bolivia where they could be guaranteed to be cared for in the same family.
"I felt I won a battle” he explains, “because to me it was important to keep the family together."
Now 18, Tito has become a staunch children’s rights advocate and continues to stand up for the rights of children in similar situations.
While at school, Tito became increasingly engaged in student-organized events and started discussion groups on children’s rights and violence prevention and the role of authorities in these issues. He also joined a government-run forum where he could promote child and adolescent rights.
"When I found out that the municipality was forming the ‘First Girl, Boy and Adolescent Committee’ I was curious, but also afraid and undecided. Then my SOS family convinced me to be part of it. They told me that it was the perfect place for me to express my ideas so I accepted the challenge," he says.
Since he got involved, five other children from SOS Children’s Villages have joined him at the committee discussions and they have been commended by the Departmental Assembly of La Paz and the Municipal Council of El Alto city.
Having the opportunity to grow up with his siblings has had a lasting impact on Tito. They were a source of comfort and continuity for him during the most difficult period of his young life as he struggled to come to terms with his bereavement and adjust to life with a new caretaker and home.
Unfortunately, many unsupported children worldwide continue to be denied the same rights. Care systems across Europe frequently separate children who have grown up together their whole lives.
At SOS Children’s Villages, we do things differently.
We know that the bond between siblings is unique. Siblings have a shared history that is often the only constant for children grappling with abandonment or bereavement and the strain of becoming accustomed to a new life. Being cared for with their siblings can help children feel less abandoned in this initial confusion and be a source of comfort for them throughout their lives. That is why we always aim to keep brothers and sisters together in the same family unit, so they can continue to grow up with each other’s support and love.