J. BRANDON NIGHTINGALE
SANCTUARY

As rain falls through the atrium at Hogar de Día Santa Catalina, the boys become restless. The cold, pouring rain has driven them inside for the day. Despite the doorway, they cannot escape the damp air. One finds solace in a televised cartoon, bundled up beneath his shirt. Another braves the cold and plays the guitar outside in the atrium. A few get out cards and play the Argentine version of "Go-Fish."

In late 2001, Argentina's economic crisis hit a boiling point. The government defaulted on billions of dollars of long-accrued public debt, and a bank run ensued. To stop the bleeding, government officials imposed a strict freeze on withdrawals and many families found themselves unable to pay bills.

Nearly overnight, well-paid professionals such as doctors and lawyers lost their jobs, forced to find low-paying work as doormen and taxi drivers. Those already counted among the poor were left to the streets. The newly created class of homeless families gathered into large camps in train stations and alleyways throughout Buenos Aires. Many families, fearing the safety of their children, were forced to separate, leaving their children with orphanages run by the Catholic Church and non-profit volunteer organizations.

This was the case for many of the boys at Hogar de Día Santa Catalina. Most have little to no contact with their parents. They live with each other, finding support in a few volunteers and employees. The staff are caring and fill-in where their parents cannot.

Despite their situation, these children have a future. The children spend a few hours with a teacher each day. They learn important life skills, are responsible for chores, and help with the daily meals. Most importantly, the staff act as mentors and help them through the daily emotional struggles of living without their parents and family. These boys, collateral damage of poor economic planning, have a sanctuary for today, and a brighter future thanks to the staff and volunteers.