Advocacy – May 2 2018 Tito’s advocacy success story “To me, it is important to keep the family together” At the young age of eight, Tito demanded that he and his siblings be kept together in alternative care following the death of his parents. He was determined and successful. Tito and his siblings found a home at SOS Children’s Village Palo Alto, Bolivia, where he continues to advocate for children in a similar situation. Tito and his siblings lost their parents at a young age due to disease and car accident. As the oldest child, Tito insisted on keeping the family together and refused that anyone separated him from his younger siblings. "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 like any other child and we deserved to be asked about our future or who we wanted to live with", says the 18 year old. As a result of demanding his rights, staff in the shelter where the children were staying looked for an appropriate alternative care setting that would ensure the children could be kept together. That’s how Tito and his siblings came to the SOS Children’s Village in Palo Alto. "I felt I won a battle because to me, it was important to keep the family together," he explains while smiling. Continuing the fight At school, Tito became increasingly engaged in student-organised events. According to his teachers, he started discussion groups on children’s rights, prevention of violence and the role of authorities in these issues. He was determined to learn more about the consequences of child abandonment and violence – and to share his insights and opinions on the matter. That’s when he found out about a government-run forum that would allow him to do just that. "They told me 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 as they told me that it was the perfect place for me to express my ideas – so I accepted the challenge," he says. Today, Tito is an active member of the committee and attends all sessions where he promotes children’s and adolescents' rights. Since he got involved, five other children from SOS Children’s Villages have joined him at the committee discussions. The committee’s efforts have been recognized by the Bolivian Chamber of Deputies. The Departmental Assembly of La Paz and the Municipal Council of El Alto city have also commended the involvement of the children and the role of their SOS mother in encouraging their involvement. Keeping siblings together is a principle of our work SOS Children’s Villages believes that every child has the right to grow up with the protection and love of a family; ideally, with his or her biological family. We believe that every effort should be made to keep families together, and, in cases where separation is necessary, to promote family reintegration. Children who cannot remain with their families should be cared for in a loving family environment, where siblings can grow up together.