Fellow volunteers describe Helena Kmieć as a 'model of joyful, humble, boundless service'

A Polish lay missionary has died after an apparent robbery at a childcare centre in the city of Cochabamba in Bolivia.

Helena Kmieć, who had only arrived in the country two weeks earlier, was stabbed by intruders and later died of her injuries.

Police have detained several suspects, according to Poland’s ministry of foreign affairs.

Fr Adam Ziolkowski, director of the Salvator Missionary volunteering group for which she worked, told Vatican Radio that robbers broke into the centre late at night. They found Helena awake and “she tried to defend herself and she was stabbed repeatedly”.

“She was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said.

He added that she was planning to volunteer at the childcare centre, run by an order of Polish Sisters, for six months.

Fr Ziolkowski said she was a “kind person and very helpful; she never missed a chance to do something good for others. Everyone who knew her was happy to spend time with her,” he said. Everyone knew her and loved her – we miss her very much.”

A message on the Salvator Missionary Facebook page asked for people to pray for her.

“At the moment all words are insufficient,” the post said. “We ask you to pray for Helena, her family who have been plunged into pain, as well as our entire community.

“Helena will remain for us an unattainable model of joyful, humble, boundless service to Jesus and people. Thanks to her, we know that truly holy people live very close to us.”