During the day, when Yuleini's mother and stepfather are at work, it is up to the 13-year-old to care for the four children: cook their meals in an old stove, wash their clothes and hang them on the metal sheets that double as walls and play with them amidst the rubble that surrounds their home.
Since 2004, however, Yuleini has been able to do something she had never done before: go to school. A joint project of the Light and Life Foundation (Fundaci-n Luz y Vida), UNICEF and UNILEVER, has enabled her to attend community classrooms especially designed to provide excluded children from Petare with an education.
"Going to school has changed my life, I've learnt many things and made friends," says Yuleini. "But what I like most is my teacher, because she listens to me and is very loving."
The classroom has become a safe haven for Yuleini and for the 5,000 boys and girls who are currently benefiting from the project. So far, 60 per cent of the children attending the community classrooms have been integrated into the formal education system.
Having access to school was not easy for Yuleini. When UNICEF first reported this story, Yuleini said that her parents were dead and that she lived with her sister, her brother-in-law and her nephews. As the story was being edited, Yuleini's mother (whom we then believed to be her sister) revealed that she and Yuleini had lied about the true nature of their relationship. As it turns out, Yuleini's mother gave birth to the girl when she was herself a 16-year-old teenager. She never registered Yuleini's birth and left her with her own mother, Yuleini's grandmother, in Colombia while she looked for work in Caracas.
Following the grandmother's death in 2002 Yuleini's mother brought her to live with her, her new husband and their four children. Having no birth registration, however, meant that Yuleini could not go to school and so her mother decided to say that Yuleini had no documents because she had no parents. Thus, what began as the story of a poor, orphaned girl became a much more complex account of how poverty, teenage pregnancy and lack of birth registration affected the lives of several generations within one family.
The many difficulties that Yuleini has faced in her short life have made her wise beyond her years. "I've seen what happens to other kids in my neighbourhood who don't go to school," she says. "They spend their days sniffing glue, begging for money and getting into trouble. I feel sorry for them."
She is especially mindful of what can happen to young girls who live in poverty and have little access to education "I don't want to get married and have children, at least not anytime soon," she declares. "I want to work and study. I don't want to be like another girl I know who is 13 years old and already pregnant."