Who WE Are
Eradicate sexual violence through transdisciplinary prevention strategies targeting root causes and complex cultural and social dynamics reproducing cycles of sexual violence.
Restore the lives of those who’ve suffered child sexual violence by providing them through free, holistic support, for healing and justice.
We secure access to justice for survivors, as an integral feature of individual healing, and to strengthen legal systems.
A Breeze of Hope envisions a safe world, where all children can experience the magic of childhood and reach their potential to live full, happy lives.
We ensure that our directors, officers, and staff are equally accountable to each other. Our non-hierarchal, peer-based accountability system ensures that each person in the organization receives constructive feedback on performance and can self-assess before the work community.
We take personal responsibility for using our resources efficiently, achieving measurable results, and being accountable to supporters, partners, and, most of all, children.
We aspire to live to the highest standards of personal honesty and behavior. We never compromise our reputation and always act in the best interest of children.
We respect and value each other, thrive on our diversity, and collaborate to leverage our global strength in making a difference for children. We believe that the strongest movements are created when people and organizations partner to combine their strengths, ideas, and experiences.
We embrace new ideas and change, and we take disciplined risks to develop sustainable solutions for and with children.
We demand the best of ourselves. We are committed to the highest standards of professionalism and excellence in all of our work. We set high goals and firmly commit to improving the quality of everything we do for children.
A Breeze of Hope’s History
by Brisa De Angulo
I was two months old when my family returned to South America, first to Ecuador then to Bolivia.
We eventually settled in Chilimarca, which was one of the most impoverished communities inBolivia at the time. Most of the people who lived there were unemployed miners who had migrated closer to the city from the mountainous mining regions of Potosi. Photo of the school Most lived in makeshift tents and cardboard shacks, which were scattered like termite mounds across the arid terrain. The well-to-do lived in one room adobe brick homes with rusty tin roofs that flapped in the wind like sails. The water was polluted and food was scarce.
Despair, alcoholism, violence, and high rates of maternal, infant, and child mortality were the norm. Most adults were illiterate, as were most children. The children didn’t have much opportunity for education because Chilimarca didn’t have a school. The children had to walk to neighboring communities to attend classes. And almost every day I saw them return home with bruises, patches of hair missing from their scalps, cuts, and hidden tears. It was normal for teachers to beat and severely punish their students. My siblings and I were home schooled.
School was fun for us. It was a continual adventure in a context of love and patience. So the contrast between my experience and the experience of my best friends threw me into a crisis. I couldn’t sleep and I thought ceaselessly about what I could do to change their situation.
When I was seven years old, I began insisting to my parents that we had to start a school. I told them that I dreamed of a school where children would enjoy learning and where they would experience love and safety rather than violence. My parents thought this was only a momentary, idealistic dream. But I was determined to make my dream a reality. I decided to start a school in my back yard. I gathered scrap wood to use as tables and stones to use as chairs.
Every day when the children returned from school, I would invite them to my house, where I helped them with their homework and helped them learn to read. I made it my mission to learn everything I could. But more than anything, I made sure that all the violence the children saw at school was never in my backyard. It was a place where they could have fun and learn through play in a loving environment.
As the years went by my dream grew stronger and my insistence to my parents, more pressing. When I was 10, we started an afterschool program in Chilimarca. The program was the product of intense conversations around the dinner table. My parents, sisters, and I threw ourselves into the program, hoping the children would regain their love for learning. The program was wonderful. The children loved it. But the homework the children brought to the program worried me. It all focused on the memorization of historical and scientific fact, mathematical formulas, and multiplication tables, and the mindless copying of endless pages of prose and poetry.
The children didn’t have the opportunity to think freely, to explore the world around them, or to dream of new realities. I wanted them to experience learning as I did, as a fun and exciting adventure. These schools were domesticating the children. The teachers proclaimed, “Con sangre entra la letra,” which means that the letter—a symbol for information—enters the mind with the spilling of blood. Fear of failure and violent punishment had displaced the love of learning and freedom. It was no surprise then that some of the children arrived to the afterschool program terrified.
And so I continued to dream of a school where children could learn without violence, where children could love learning and be safe. I dreamed of a place where parents could be involved in their children’s education and development in the same way that my parents had been involved in mine. I believed that something better was possible.
So in 1998 I began to flesh out my dream and started drafting a school curriculum for an alternative schooling program based on values of non-violence and respect. I was so excited that I had trouble sleeping. In my bedroom I typed, researched, and worked non-stop. I gathered all the books on education and psychology that I could find. I poured over them, searching for information to support my ideas of alternative education.
I went to university professors and requested permission to sit-in on their classes. Many of them allowed me. I also went to technical colleges and earned certificates on early childhood development and education. At this point, my parents realized that I was serious and that I wouldn’t give up. And with their support, I drafted a solid proposal with lots of supporting documentation. One year later, in 1999, when I was fourteen years old, the Bolivian Government gave us permission to
start a school offering alternative education. Days later, Comunidad Educativa Para La Vida (CEV) held its first classroom session. But we still didn’t have tables or chairs, so we used an old door as a table and large rocks as chairs.I spent all day in the school with the children and I prepared lesson plans and activities at night. A couple of weeks into classes, while I was teaching at the school, my dad called out, “Brisa… there’s a surprise outside.”
When I went out, there was an old rusty blue truck with a wooden cargo bed. My dad climbed into the back with a certain twinkle in his eye. He smiled and started passing me little chairs. Twenty of them! Then he handed me 4 brand new tables. I was thrilled. I felt as though my heart would leap from my chest. I immediately organized the tables and chairs and then stood there starring, captivated by the new possibilities. Till this day we have continued to expand the school little by little. With the help of small donations, we have gradually built classrooms and today we have a beautiful infrastructure for children from 6 months of age to 6th grade. The methodologies used in CEV are innovative, community based, and student centered. CEV also works with the families of the children to facilitate healthy and comprehensive childhood development. This work begins
during pregnancy and continues until 6th grade. Many municipal governments are using CEV as a model to implement similar methodologies in their communities.
Despite all the wonderful activities at the school, my life completely changed when I was fifteen. A sexual predator crossed my path. My dreams, joy, passion for justice, and my will to live suddenly dissipated into thin air. It all started when my 26-year-old cousin arrived from Colombia to live with us. My cousin immediately became involved with CEV. My parents, who oversaw the various projects in Bolivia, requested that he support me and accompany me in the different activities I was involved with at the school and in the community.
They also expected him to support me in my studies related to my home school program. This frequent interaction gave him ample opportunity to invade my life, which he did. Slowly he began to isolate me and desensitize me to his subtle but inappropriate touching. He eventually began to degrade my work and make fun of the children in the school. I began to see how cruel he could be and so I stopped going to CEV to keep him away from the children, to protect them.
In very subtle ways and with lies, he made me distance myself from my loved ones. He made sure that I was alone so that when he did the unthinkable, I would be trapped in silence. He started to become physically violent with me when no one was around. He often ordered me to bring him tea and if I didn’t, he would throw me to the floor and kick me until I begged for mercy. Sometimes he ordered me to make his bed and he would beat me when I didn’t make it to his satisfaction. I hid my bruises because I feared what he would do if someone saw them. He made sure that I was terrified of him and that I didn’t question his commands. But in front of everyone else, he was a saint. He was charming and fun to be around.
He told jokes and sang Christian songs. People literally said, “He’s such a good man, he wouldn’t hurt a fly.” Yet he enjoyed my suffering. He made me watch while he beat and tortured my dog (whom I loved with all my being). Little by little, he broke my will and dismantled my protective instincts so that I was totally vulnerable. Then he did the unthinkable. He started to rape me. My parents knew something was deeply wrong, but they never imagined what was happening to me, much less that my cousin was the one harming me. My parents were concerned and reached out to me constantly.
But I feared the pain that my parents would endure if I they knew. My predator knew very well how to manipulate this fear of mine and used to tell me, “If your mom knew about this, the pain would literally kill her.” “You can’t be selfish and make you parents suffer by telling them.” “If you say anything, you will destroy your family and all the projects in Bolivia, too.” In all that pain and confusion, I believed him. So I remained silent. The rape continued for eight horrifying months.
He often threatened me, telling me that if he didn’t rape me he would rape my sisters. My desire to protect my sisters assured him that I would remain silent. I slipped into deep depression. I cried for hours every day and cried myself to sleep every night. And every night I feared the coming of the next day. My internal pain was so deep that I started hurting myself. I developed anorexia to the point where I was medically at risk. I tried to commit suicide twice. My parents were distraught. They knew something horrible was happening, because how could their daughter, so filled with dreams and love for life, have no will to live? My mom used to beg my cousin, “I know something is wrong with my little girl, I just don’t know what. She talks to you. Please try to figure it out and tell me what is going on.” For my parents, the “unthinkable” was
happening. They couldn’t even imagine as a remote possibility that I was suffering sexual violence at the hands of a family member inside the same space we had always shared before my aggressor arrived. It was unfathomable. As they’ve stated, it was so horrible, so repulsive that their minds did everything to resist considering sexual violence as a possibility. My parents relentlessly tried to talk to me and comfort me. But I completely shut them out. I just couldn’t let them go through the pain of knowing that I was being raped. I felt like I couldn’t let them suffer what I was suffering.
I feared that my cousin’s words would come true. He repeatedly raped me for eight horrible months until I went with my parents and sisters to the United States to visit my brothers.
Breaking the Silence and The Legal Process
Eventually I was able to break the silence and my family learned of what was happening to me. When I returned to Bolivia, I found no place to seek help or professional support. Everywhere I went I was blamed. I went from one place to another, and no one seemed to care. No one took me seriously. It was extremely difficult to be a female adolescent in Bolivia, a society that tends to blame women and children.
At the beginning, the prosecutor did not want to take my case. She said it was a lost cause, bound to fail. But my parents and I were relentless in our pursuit for justice and insisted that she take the case. Eventually she agreed to take the case but she subjected me to multiple forms of intimidation. She interrogated me for hours, making me retell my story over and over again and slowly sifting through the most painful details of my suffering in search of a reason to drop my case. She told me, “If I find any lie in your story, I will send you to prison.”
She then told me that even if what I said were true, I should remain silent and recant. She said that my aggressor would suffer horribly in prison, and that I should recant to spare him such misery. She said that my decision to move forward would crush his future and destroy my family. I could not remain silent, especially knowing that he works in the church with other adolescents. I had to fight for me, for the potential victims. Also, I could not turn my back on the many victims that came before me, who fought to provide me and other victims a chance for access to justice. So my parents and I marched forward with my case. We knew that if we left the case in the hands of the prosecutor alone, the case would stall and fail.
So with permission of the prosecutor, we went in search of a private attorney who would assume primary responsibility for my case and work along with the prosecutor. We searched and searched for an attorney and none wanted to take my case. Many believed that an adolescent couldn’t be raped, and that if she were, it would be her fault.
Most said that no judge would hear my case and that if one did, it would be a complete waste of time. They said, just as the prosecutor, that my case, like prior cases of sexual violence against an adolescent, would be a lost cause. No one wanted to fight for me or other female adolescent victims of sexual violence. But my parents and I persisted and eventually found a private attorney who was willing to give my case a chance. The prosecutor delegated authority and the private attorney functioned as a figurehead for court appearances and document signatures.
My mother was the real attorney. They memorized the rules of criminal procedure and evidence and helped my attorney to make appropriate objections and file timely motions. She and my father did practically everything without any prior legal education or experience. They had no choice. If they didn’t assume all the work, no one would.
Despite all their efforts, judges refused to hear my case. My case floated from one judge to another for three years. It was like they were playing hot potato with it. All the while, my family and I endured multiple forms of pressure and intimidation from my extended family from Colombia (the ex-family). The ex-family made it clear that it was far more important to protect my aggressor and the social image of the family than to afford me access to justice and a chance to heal.
The ex-family from Colombia came to Bolivia to testify against me at trial. They desecrated my childhood and pilled lies upon lies, telling tales about my childhood and family. They insulted me from the witness stand and made fun of my family in open court. The judges did nothing and my lawyers never objected. The trial had become some type of sinister circus where I was the main event.
It was a reversal of the most horrible sort. I was on trial, not my aggressor. During this time, we also received threatening phone calls and letters, including death threats. Our house was stoned a few times and set on fire twice. People tried to kidnap me and run me over with their cars. It was clear that someone wanted me dead. But we didn’t give up.
The legal process continued and proved to be a parade of horribles. The judges and lawyers continually violated my rights, making innumerable mistakes. And because of their mistakes, I was forced to endure three exhausting and humiliating trials and years of appellate litigation. Today my case remains open because my predator—with the aid and protection of the ex-family—fled from Bolivia and has since been declared a fugitive from justice.
After experiencing the darkness of sexual assault and horrible revictimization upon breaking the silence, I vowed to dedicate my life to eradicating sexual violence against children and adolescents and to providing victims with the support and professional services that I never received. I wanted to support victims who suffered revictimization from their families and from the judicial system so that they wouldn’t suffer the nightmare I experienced.
I wanted to offer hope where there is despair and light where there is darkness. I dreamed of changing a tear for a smile. My experience opened my eyes to the underground reality of sexual violence. I discovered that I wasn’t alone, that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys suffer
some form of sexual violence before age 18, and that the overwhelming majority of victims (80% to 90%) are sexually assaulted by a family member or someone close and known to the victim. I discovered that there are countless victims who have nowhere to go, no door to knock on. I also realized that many victims of sexual violence don’t have the strong family support system that I had from my parents and siblings, and thus never have a chance to have their voice heard or get their case to court.
So I began dreaming of a support center for child and adolescent victims of sexual violence. And in 2004, after much work and effort, my dream came true. My parents and I founded Centro Una Brisa de Esperanza (CUBE), the first and only center in Bolivia that specializes in the comprehensive assistance of child and adolescent victims of sexual violence. CUBE provides free legal, social, and psychological services and is a pioneer in its field because of its transdisciplinary treatment protocols. CUBE has provided these free services to over 1,000 victims.
CUBE also dedicates much of its efforts to the eradication of sexual violence against children and adolescents and is setting the standards for best practices in this area.
To this end, CUBE employs several prevention strategies, including:
- Public Policy and Legal Reform
- Prosecution of Sex Offenders
- Awareness Through:
- Research and Publications
- Training Professionals (prosecutors, police, judges, special investigators, forensic physicians, teachers, psychologists, attorneys, social workers, and other professionals) Public Information Campaigns (e.g. park fares)
- Mass Media Information Segments (commercials and news casts)
- Workshops (for the public, professionals, middle and high school students, college students, and families)
- International Advocacy (thematic hearings and petitions before the OAS) Social Mobilization (such demonstrations and marches)
CUBE has revolutionized the criminal trial process in Bolivia. Sexual predators can no
longer confront child victims face-to-face in court. This has dramatically reduced the instances of traumatic revictimization and recantation that occur during trial. Also, before CUBE opened its doors, the conviction rate in sexual assault trials was only 2%. CUBE’s conviction rate is 95%. CUBE has conducted extensive research on the topic of sexual violence against children. With over 20 published books, CUBE has become a leading expert in the field.
CUBE has trained over 50,000 people, including judges, attorneys, psychologists, and teachers. The trainings have been provided throughout South, Central, and North America. CUBE has brought awareness to over 1,000,000 people on the topic of sexual violence. CUBE also facilitated along with UNICEF a large participatory research with judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and child advocacy organizations that identified the major obstacles in the legal process that victims face in cases of sexual violence against children and adolescents.
The participatory research group also created a detailed procedural map to assist advocates in the comprehensive management of cases of sexual violence. This research continues to open access to justice for many children
whose cases would otherwise be dismissed or result in mistrials. In 2012, CUBE, together with Rutgers School of Law Camden and Washington College of Law, presented a thematic hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights at the Organization of American States in Washington D.C.
The hearing outlined the systemic failures of Bolivia with regard to cases of sexual violence involving female adolescents and feasible changes that Bolivia could make to address this problem.
Also, because of CUBE’s relentless efforts, the Bolivian National Government declared August 9th the National Day Against Child Sexual Assault. Each year thousands of people gather on August 9th to march against child sexual assault in the various departments of Bolivia. This annual march began as a crazy idea of mine when I was 17.
My dream was to show victims of sexual violence that they are not alone, that there are more good people than bad. With this motivation, I started speaking at universities and on T.V. to encourage others to join me in the March.
No one thought the March would succeed.
Nevertheless, I gave my best efforts to organize a march through the City of Cochabamba, Bolivia. I expected no more than 100 people to show up. To my surprise, over 5,000 people showed up the day of the march!
As we marched through the city, our numbers grew larger. When we arrived at the main plaza, the Mayor and Prefect of Cochabamba greeted us, endorsed our activities, and joined the march.
When we arrived to the Hall of Justice, the Chief Judge of the Superior Court—which is the highest regional appellate court—joined the march and told us the judicial system would do everything it could to punish sex offenders. Each year, more and more government officials join the march, including police officers.
A Breeze of Hope and its Activities
Because of CUBE and CEV’s success, different countries have asked us to start similar projects and movements. In response, my husband and I created A Breeze of Hope as an umbrella organization to further our efforts to help children across the world. Our mission is to support CUBE and CEV and to create, implement, and support projects like them around the world; projects that provide free
services to child victims of sexual violence and that promote comprehensive childhood development. We dream to provide children around the world with high quality services like those offered in CUBE and CEV.
And we believe that if we foster a global movement of local organizations and individuals, we will come closer to the eradication of sexual violence and the establishment of a culture that fosters healthy childhood development. The more voices that join, the greater the force of the movement.
We want you to join this movement and become a breeze of hope for children.
Contact us for more information.