Newsletters 15 and 16

Newsletter 16 – Latin Lockdown

Since our last newsletter we have remained in a strict lockdown here in Bolivia. Our weekly trip to the market has become a highlight. We have to wear a face mask, walk about 3 km (no public transport) and get sprayed by a disinfectant tunnel before having our temperature taken, a foot wash and smothered in hand gel.

Being in lockdown does have its challenges but there are a number of things that do make us smile and help us to get through these uncertain times. There’s the Corona virus song which is played at full blast at least once a week. Four huge speakers are strapped to the back of a truck and driven through the streets of Cochabamba. We have no choice but to listen as all the windows start to shake as it passes by.

The latest trip to the post office also kept us amused. It’s a 7km walk and we had no idea if in-fact it would be open. To our surprise it was and we were told to join the social distanced queue. Picture in your mind total chaos inside a crumbling building stuck in the 1950’s with post bags, parcels and letters piled up to the ceiling. After being told that there was no post for us today we then had to play the waiting game. It also helps if you look really sad and lean your head to one side. ‘Por favor, we are sure there must be something for us, something was sent four months ago!’ One kind gentleman started to open one of ten dirty, old post bags. Behold, the first parcel belonged to Dino y Ruth and after more sorting and fumbling two more showed up ten minutes later. A successful trip and another story to tell. Thanks to everyone who has sent parcels to us. They do arrive eventually and English chocolate and decaf tea bags always lift our spirits.

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Always thankful for our post office packages
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Squashed Maltesers are just as good as normal maltesers
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We celebrated Dean’s Birthday
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One of the largest Catholic churches in Cochabamba happens to be our neighbour which is lead by a very charismatic priest called Ronaldo. His latest activities included flying over the city in a helicopter and sprinkling Holy water over his flock. He also now has a huge TikTok following. His latest rap song went viral on social media, basically telling everyone to stay safe and stay inside. He has also fashioned a kind of Pope-mobil and can often be seen rolling though the streets of Cochabamba singing and blessing the people. You just can’t write this stuff and it’s all happening here folks!

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The Catholic Priest on his Fly by blessing

Mission
We have not been able to see the boys in the rehabilitation centre but have sent messages and a video via the social workers and hope and pray that they are well. The Army have been collecting food for the most needy and regularly patrol the streets in a truck asking for basic supplies. We have also been able to help our friend Wilfredo who was in the youth centre a few years ago with a financial gift. Our mission organisation has also been partnering with churches to supply food baskets, especially for children who’s parents are in prison. The government here are desperately trying to slow the spread of Coronavirus by asking people to stay home, but many people live in desperate poverty and cannot survive for long if they do not work. The government have given each family a payment to support them at this time, but we are seeing more and more people venturing out and coming into the city. The next decision will be on the 31st May and possibly some businesses can reopen in some areas depending on the numbers. The hospitals are very under funded; for example the news reported that in one department of Bolivia they had 15 ventilators and at the moment only 2 actually were in working order. Another photo emerged of a Covid -19 waiting area in a hospital of people in wheelchairs in a big hall with their oxygen tanks. In a system where there is no free National Health Care, where some doctors are refusing to treat patients and many people are staying away from hospital, the total of 14,000 cases in Bolivia is unlikely to be accurate.

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An example of the food parcels our mission was able to send to local families
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Hospital waiting area
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Army officers are always polite and helpful in our local plaza
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Mmmm…. what would you like for dinner?
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Meeting by Zoom …. with our Kairos Family
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We are not sure what’s next. We are praying that we can get back to some kind of normality soon. Our Bolivian church meet a couple of times a week via Zoom with worship and a short chat. People are finding it really hard to be apart and we have some days when we struggle too.

Newsletter 15 – Virus Update
Since the first case of Coronavirus arrived in Bolivia on 12th March we have been in a strict lockdown. The government took action to close schools, shops, restaurants and stop transport very quickly.

Here in Bolivia you are only allowed out to go to the market and buy food once a week from 07.00 – 12.00 depending on the number on your national ID card. Our cards end in the same number so we can only venture out on a Wednesday. Thankfully the shops have been fairly well stocked, as Bolivia produces a lot of its own food. Recently as a way to help social distancing and keeping people away from crowded places there have been mobile markets allowed to circulate the neighbourhood in the mornings. A truck with fresh veggies and fruit in sacks along with basics such as pasta, rice and eggs. (It reminds me of the lady who used to come to our village when we were kids, who knew everyone’s name, selling us ‘raspberry pop’.)When we do get to a shop we get our temperature taken, sprayed with alcohol gel, shoes cleaned, handed a jet washed trolley and, as of today, blasted in a tunnel of disinfectant. One of the strangest things is that there are no children allowed outside at all. It is so weird not to hear or see kids playing or bustling around the street.

Understandably everyone is extremely worried as the health system here is severely underfunded and poorly resourced. The government are trying to keep the numbers of infections down. The official figures are low, but this does not take into account the people who are not able to go to hospital because they cannot afford it, or treat themselves with some herbal or traditional remedy. People are not getting tested so it is unknown how many people have the Coronavirus. The government here have extended the quarantine until end of April. They have provided funds for 500bs per family (£50)  to buy food whilst in quarantine. Utility bills and debts have been frozen and if a household keeps their water, gas and electricity under a certain amount then the government will pay those too. This has helped in part to allow people to stay at home. Many, many Bolivians live in poverty and earn money one day to pay for food the next.

As you can imagine we are very worried for the boys we work with. The hygiene facilities are basic and often limited sanitation products. We have not heard any news from the centre for about a month. Many of the families live a long way from the town and we’re sure the boys are concerned for their loved ones. All the other projects we work with are similarly closed to volunteers for now.

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Fresh, organic, local fruit and vegetables
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A day in the Life….

Before the lockdown started here in Cochabamba we wrote this description of a typical day. We really miss our daily routine so we hope this gives you a flavour of life here.

 

All packed and ready for the next session
A thick layer of sunscreen…check! Hats and sunglasses…check! Old AppleMac and sound equipment…check! Lines learnt and drama practiced in Spanish…check! Parachute and games equipment…check! The ‘Niffler’ (Ruth) to make sure we have at least 4Bs (40p) for the return bus ride…check! Prayer for protection…double check!

After being warmly greeted by the heat of the day, we make our way to Avenida America, the main street that cuts through the busy city of Cochabamba. A long line of tall palm trees lead the way to a crossroads, where the race for the 260 ‘micro’ begins. I guess it’s called a micro because it’s like a small minibus but we never underestimate its ‘Tardis -like’ qualities, as there is always room for one, two or three more people and their children!

The bus will stop anywhere along the busy street, so you have to position yourself to be the first person the bus driver sees by forcefully sticking two fingers in the air (which indicates the number of people travelling by the way) and dodging traffic, motorbikes and street sellers to achieve your goal. Once you have won your seat you are now bent double with your knees firmly pressed against your chest. It’s now time to say goodbye to any form of personal space. In the past some Bolivians have been very keen to sit on your lap or stroke your arm and comment on how hairy it is whilst playing music at full blast on their cell phones! One of the great things about living in a collectivist society is that without fail everyone will say good morning to you as they launch themselves into the ‘micro collective’ …this makes us smile every time.

Once you have overcome the very satisfying feeling that ‘you’, a foreigner, have navigated the complexities of riding a Bolivian bus across town, the realisation that you might have to get off at some point suddenly dawns on you. There are various ways to do this. The first and most effective is to shout ‘esquina’ (corner) as loud as you can. This exercise is not for the timid or faint hearted as many times we have not shouted loud enough and had to walk for 2 or 3 blocks because we missed our stop. The next and probably the most Bolivian way to stop a bus is to shout ‘bajamos’ which simply means ‘we are getting off now!’. This can only be used if you are feeling very confident with your Spanish and does seem rather rude when you are from the United Kingdom.

We scramble off the bus at kilometer six and a half on the ‘Blanco Galindo’ (White Rooster) a very dangerous and dusty six lane high way. Probably the best way of knowing you have arrived is to look out for the two sign posts, ‘Tantra’ and ‘Eros’… a not so subtle reminder that we are now in the heart of the red light district. We take our equipment and our life in our hands as we navigate our way across and make the 10 minute hike along a road that we now fondly call Bleak Street.

It’s now time to prepare for the ‘Mosquito Run’. The valley of the shadow of death comes to mind, as we arm ourselves with Bolivian fizzy pop from the corner shop and make our way down this muddy track. The occasional beaten up street dog observes us invading its territory as we pass by. Show no fear becomes our brave mantra, but this only lasts for a few seconds. A frenzy of leg and arm slapping ensues as we try to swat away the onslaught of mosquitoes. Finally we look up through the dust at the large metal doors and the high barbed wire of the Youth Rehabilitation Centre.

We lift a small metal flap in the door and call for assistance. Hola..! There is always a warm greeting from Reynaldo who likes to practice his English with us… “Dino – my friend – how dar you? Please don’t speak in de Spanish – Only English por favor”.

Whilst the police officers check our bags, there are always a few boys sitting in a shady corner. They are kept there for a couple of days before they are integrated in to the main community. This time however they all seem to be huddled in a circle, reading something together. We wander over to give them our usual greeting and realise that they all have Bibles. Bibles that we bought for the centre three years ago. Wow! There are five teenage boys having a Bible study together. You just can’t write this stuff!

From a distance we hear some boys calling our names. Hey Dino y Roooof. Twelve lads appear one by one. They have rushed their lunch so that they can be ready for Youth Alpha. It doesn’t matter so much that our Spanish isn’t perfect, the boys know that we care for them and know each of them by name. We are greeted with wet hand shakes and back slapping hugs. They all have self made tattoos, battle scars and they smell a bit strange sometimes. They have come from a world that many of us will never know or experience, but God is changing their lives and that is good enough for us. Each one of these young people have a story to tell and have been in trouble with the law, but we have never experienced such a willingness to change, they have been given a second chance and they are open to God’s power and love in their lives. We sit in a dark hall, surrounded by a patchwork of curtains, the odd stray dog and we talk about eternal things.

We meet with these boys, and others like them, five times a week. We have come to the realisation that we love this work. It’s what God has called us here to do and the rewards far outweigh the cost. We now have a ‘captive audience’ for the next two years. These young lives which are hidden from sight are so precious to God and most of them are hearing the gospel message for the first time. So, we are all packed and ready for the next session … bring it on!

It’s hard to find words to explain how we are feeling right now as we wait for the doors to open again but we are praying that God will make us stronger through this time of lockdown. Our thoughts and prayers are with you wherever in the world you might be. We are feeling very far from home at the moment, but are sure this is where God has called us to be.

Newsletter 14

Can you believe we’ve been here for almost a year?… except our brief trip home for Ruth’s herniated disc. We want to thank you for all your interest and support in this time. We really appreciate all our friends and family near and far.

The Virus
So Bolivia was doing very well to avoid all Coronavirus news, but sadly the past few days there have been a number of cases here. The president took immediate action and closed the schools, universities, interdepartmental transport and international flights to and from Europe/UK. They said that there would be no visitors or volunteers at the youth rehabilitation centre until the end of the month. So we have an unexpected chance to catch our breath and have a bit of a break. Today we heard a new update enforcing a curfew from 19.00-05.00 every day and the ban on all sporting, cultural and social events. We are praying that everything is ok and all our friends around the world are able to stay healthy, especially the people in vulnerable groups. Bolivian health services are not great (as we found out last year) and facilities for isolation and quarantine are unknown. We had a couple of strange reactions from local people, who see us as foreigners and have stepped away from us or refused to serve us without washing their hands. But… loo roll is in plentiful supply. Happy days!

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The Work
But on to the news… we have continued with all our classes and groups (up until Thursday). We love going to San Benito to see the girls who are so enthusiastic about doing drama. The Mosoj Yan group have had a couple of new additions, two new girls and one girl has had a baby this month. His name is Daniel and both are doing really well. The group of boys at Camino are enjoying the Alpha course – although three of the original group now go to school in the afternoon. The new kids are straight off the street so have a lot of ‘character’! The girls at Cometa have almost finished the Alpha course; we’ve been talking about the Holy Spirit and how best to read your Bible on your own. We have a core group of 12 boys at Cometa that tend to come to both the drama and the Alpha course. All are really responding well to the questions and are all more confident in sharing their ideas. We did a drama called ‘Light of the World’ and made friendship bracelets based on the ‘colour book with no words’ idea. The black represents sin, the white is cleansing, the red is the blood of Jesus, the yellow signifies heaven etc.

Wrist band

We are leading more Saturday sessions along with the team of volunteers. Charlie, who is the pastor of Kairos church, has come along to help with worship and group discussions. This month the themes have been prayer and faith. We were amazed that more than 30 of the boys expressed their faith after we led them in a prayer. The well-known picture of Jesus knocking on the door by Holeman Hunt gave a number of them a ‘WOW’ moment when they saw that they had to invite Jesus into their lives as there was no door handle on the outside. Those kind of moments make everything seem worthwhile.

The Family
The Familia Kairos church has been a welcoming place to invite young people to. As a way of getting to know more people better, we were asked to share on the family day out – which was a BBQ at a local cabin. Together we did an activity which involved teams building paper towers and showed how we each have a role to play in the team and this is an illustration of how we can each use our unique skills to serve the church. The interactive, reflective style went down really well and was quite new to many of the group.

Thank you for all your support and continued interest in what we are doing. We love hearing from friends and sharing news, so please drop us a message. Also if you want to send us a parcel that would be amazing.  Our postal address is Casilla 15, Cochabamba, Bolivia. South America. Label anything as ‘household items’. We finished our supply of Cadbury’s this week! (serves us right for SHARING WITH OTHERS!)

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When it rains at church.

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The church day out

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A couple of the final paper towers which was a team building illustration.

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The tallest tower

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With David

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No shortage here…

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Baby Daniel

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Newsletter 13

February seems to have whizzed by in a bit of a blur… We’ve been really busy. It’s been ‘rainy season’ here, which means a couple of days of heavy rain and a few spectacular thunder and lightning storms. It’s all supposed to go back to normal at the end of this month, after Carnival and the crazy water fighting with balloons and spraying foam! But so far we’ve managed to dodge being a target (Dean insists it’s one of the advantages of having grey hair – they aim at everyone else!)

Our ministry work has been going really well. We are doing six regular presentations per week now, which keeps us rushing around from one place to another. The boys and girls at the rehabilitation centre are enjoying the Alpha course in Spanish. It’s incredible to see how they are now talking and sharing their thoughts more freely. They have got used to the structure and now volunteer answers and ideas. The topics we’ve been doing this month are about Jesus, the cross, faith and prayer. They particularly liked doing the ‘skittles prayer’ when they could pick a different type of prayer depending on what colour skittle came out of the packet.

A new group of boys have signed up for the drama course. They have been so enthusiastic and a few of the group who finished last year have been keen to come along to help. It’s funny to hear the boys explaining the meaning of the dramas to each other and hearing your own words being echoed back at you.

As planned, we have started going to another youth rehabilitation centre for girls in a district of Cochabamba called San Benito. This is for girls who have either lived on the street, and have been given the option to live in the centre or girls who have been using drugs, sniffing glue or addicted to alcohol. It is about an hour outside of the city. There are currently about 8 girls there, but it can house up to 20 and they are between 14-18 years old. After negotiating the journey, the gates and the four rather large growling dogs, we had a fabulous time with the girls, staff and even the cook joined in the games. They don’t get many visitors so they were so appreciative of our time. We are doing the 12 week drama course, where each week covers a different theme and bible verse. Some of the girls obviously have grown up going to church and one girl gave an amazing explanation of why she prays and about God’s grace. In those moments we just look at each other and cannot believe our ears. She was so excited to be able to participate in the drama and talk to her friends about what she believes.

A number of the boys and girls have left the rehabilitation centre over the past month. It is quite hard keeping in touch with them as their lives are chaotic and very transient. We’ve helped some with school supplies and materials they need to start college and one girl is interested in joining ‘Transformations’. One boy proudly told us he has a job in the big cinema and is a motorbike mechanic in the day (as well as studying at uni!?). Our friend Wilfredo came to our flat for dinner with his girlfriend and loved his Watford football shirt. He starts his third year of vet school this Spring.EBAE291A-27C4-4FE1-A26C-696CEE7AC1AE-1059-00000086C7077B8C

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Catching up with Belen.

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Putting out the recycling … Bolivian style

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Church day out to a local cabin

We were delighted when our friend California asked if her could come to church with us. We have been visiting a number of churches to find one which is open and welcoming to the population we are working with. A church named Kairos from Santa Cruz has opened a small church plant in Cochabamba. They meet in a park, under a tree, sitting on the ground on blankets or on fishing stools. It’s very informal. There is usually a drum and either a guitar or ukulele. We are going to talk at their next family day out event on the 1st March.

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Church under the tree. Family Kairos

 

 

Newsletter 12

Alpha
One of the great things about Alpha is that the whole course can be downloaded in Spanish! We started our very first Youth Alpha course in Cometa last week for the boys and for the girls. They loved it! Most young people in Bolivian culture don’t get a chance to voice their opinions at school; the teacher knows all the answers, and to question the system is not advisable. Youth Alpha gives our young people the chance to tell us what they think and feel about God, faith and the meaning of life in a safe and fun environment. Many of the young people are starting to enjoy group discussion for the very first time. Our Church here in Cochabamba have been so impressed with the material that they have also started Alpha for adults and young people at a mid week group.

Through the week
Our Saturday afternoon sessions are gaining momentum and we have a new worship leader from a well known church called Kairos (it’s like the South American equivalent of Soul Survivor). Caleb brings another dimension to our meetings, with his very laid back attitude and reggae style worship. When his work is done he swings his guitar over his shoulder, jumps on his chopper motorbike and rides off into the sunset. Only in Bolivia folks!

Many of the leadership team at Cometa and Camino have changed as they are only contracted for one year at a time. This can be quite problematic as we need to start building relationships again from scratch. However, some of the staff have been there since we started our ministry in 2014 and this helps with the transition. Last week we were given permission to keep the work going so we started a fresh drama/discipleship group for ‘sentencia’ (those with longer sentences). It was so encouraging that some of last year’s group wanted to come along to help. They remembered the material and began to encourage the less able boys. What a treat!

We try to meet up with as many ex-offenders as possible and it was such a privilege to meet with Lucy again this month. This time she brought her mum and two children and with her. Before we met Lucy 5 years ago she had been living on the streets and sleeping in a disused railway station. All family relationships had been broken. She is now living back with her family and seems genuinely happy. We also had a meeting with ‘California’ who left Cometa in November, whilst we were in UK. He now has a job and is studying in the evenings to finish his last year of high school. He was very impressed with the Watford football shirt we brought from England. Mainly because it has a South American player’s name on the back! (Thanks Charlie!).

Rumble in the jungle
We had some spare time after New Year so we took the opportunity to visit Hali in Santa Cruz. Hali runs a programme for children and families in some of the poorest communities in Bolivia. We have been Hali’s mentors for a few years now and it was good to have some quality time together. It’s always an adventure when we visit the low-lands of Bolivia and this trip was no exception. The plan was to take a 4×4 trek in search of waterfalls. Crossing 25 rivers and navigating jungle tracks that just didn’t exist on the map was great fun, though slightly worrying at times. But the pay-off was breathtaking. A double waterfall cascading over a 70ft over-hang and our own private inland beach complete with a natural pool. We had found paradise! But paradise only lasted 10 minutes before Miguel spotted one of the deadliest scorpions known to man (Two Tailed Arizona Bark Scorpion). We kept our shoes firmly attached to our feet for the rest of the day, and we were surprisingly very grateful that we had only been bitten by mosquitos.

Thank you for your continued support and prayers in 2020.
We can’t do this work without you…

 

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On our adventure in the jungle, when the road got so bad the 4×4 couldn’t go on, we decided to walk the last few kilometres to the waterfalls.

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Just don’t think what could be lurking in the water….

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After seeing this little fella, we decided to put our shoes back on!

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DayOut
A lunch stop at a Jesuit church outside of Santa Cruz

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Wow……

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Lunch with friends, Rafa and Gabi

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‘Christmas dinner’ with stuffing from home.

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Glad to see Lucy doing so well.

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Our friend ‘California’ who we met up with for lunch. Thanks Charlie for the shirt!

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Hali and Dean, BBQ, s’mores and the best ever Guacamole

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Newsletter 11

 

Merry Christmas… We hope you are enjoying the Christmas season: mince pies, Christmas carol services, nativities, watching ‘The Holiday’ warm fires and cozy evenings.

However, it is almost summer here in Cochabamba and it is hot (about 25 degrees most days but sometimes up to 30). It is the beginning of rainy season too, so there are lots of lovely flowers in bloom. We arrived back on the 4th December after our stay in the UK. We have been trying to ease back in gently to the drama and activities, but we do seem to have been very busy straight away.

The political situation is currently calm, with a temporary President calling for new elections in March/ April next year. Many people have been effected by the three week blockades, but transport and life has returned to normal for now.

The boys at Cometa and Camino were so pleased to see us. There have been a couple of boys who’ve been given early release and we are trying to find a way to get in touch with them. One young person, Gabriel, who we’ve nicknamed California gave us a call this week and we are meeting up with him on Monday. We hope to be able to find out where he lives and put him in touch with a pastor in his neighbourhood who can help him to find some work experience in the New Year.

We only had two sessions to finish in our twelve week drama course, so we managed to squish those into December and we are able to present certificates to about 24 young people. Each person will get a certificate outlining the course, a printed T shirt, all their work and a discipleship booklet designed for teenagers asking questions about their identity in God. Wish we could take photos of the presentation but the rules don’t allow us to take cameras into Cometa.

Christmas here in Bolivia has gained a bit more of a Western edge in the past few years. We see an elaborate mismatch of lights twirled around the palm trees and various nativity scenes with cartoon characters… Imagine Olaf the snowman with baby Jesus and the Grinch standing around a Coca Cola train! Most families will wait until Christmas Eve to buy a gift for someone in the family and they eat a spicy chicken and pork soup at midnight on Christmas Eve followed by a type of Panatone with chocolate milk. We will celebrate with our church family on the 23rd December with a ‘drama extravaganza’ and have a quiet relaxing day on the 25th. Will be thinking of you all as you enjoy your yummy turkey and pigs in blankets watching repeats of the Downton Christmas special.

On Tuesday we helped run a special Christmas party for the girls at Mosjo Yan, which is a girls refuge we worked at a few years ago. The volunteers were hosting a tea party for them at the mission guesthouse (the only place we have found a good Christmas tree!). We presented some short drama sketches, which they loved and we played some silly Christmas games, like dressing up whilst passing a balloon along the line and drawing picture on each other’s backs. These are all girls who have been victims of abuse from family members and are in the home for their own protection. It literally breaks your heart to see them and hear their stories. One girl, who is now over 18, came back as a helper and recognised us from a few years ago. We are looking to start volunteering there in the new year.

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The girls and staff from Mosoj Yan enjoying their Christmas party

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10th Anniversary of Serve Abroad

So this month has been a month of drama workshops and visitors. Our work in the youth rehabilitation centre has continued to be fun and to be well received by the young people. Our sessions always involve a game, a drama and an interactive activity. We have had many great conversations and questions from the boys. It feels encouraging to be able to communicate a bit better each week, as our Spanish improves and they gain confidence in us.

This month we had a ‘friend of a friend’s niece’ stay for a week and also two girls, Lauren and Jessie, from UK who were backpacking around South America. We took the girls with us to Camino and were able to take a few photos of the boys playing with the parachute and getting involved in our activity.

It was the 10th Anniversary of our mission organisation, ‘Serve Abroad’. We joined with Mauge in celebrating how much has been accomplished by having a party with all the mission partners here in Cochabamba. We presented a drama to everyone there. Our first contact with the mission was through the language school back in 2007. We have lots of happy memories of our first visit, staying with a lady called Dona Carmen – eating green soup! and walking past the smelly bins on the walk to school everyday. Dean designed the original logo for Serve Abroad and we were there to encourage Mauge in the very beginning to set up a volunteer program for her language students. This blog has all the old photos archived from those days… we look so young!

We have also had a number of training sessions for the team of volunteers who work in the youth rehabilitation centre on Saturday afternoons. We have been trying to show them that an alternative to preaching is to teach with interactive activities to encourage the youth to think and talk about their ideas. This is quite different to how school operates here, where the emphasis is on rote memorisation.

Many pastors who are keen to receive young people when they are released from the centre, also came to a training session this month. The first church is preparing to start their transition visits this month and are ready to begin their discipleship with ‘E’ who will be leaving soon.

Please let us know if you’d like to be included in our monthly newsletter by sending us your latest email address. Thanks for reading. We love to keep in touch, so send us a message with your news too.

Sunday morning hike up the steps to the Jesus Satue

Squashed into the back of a Bolivian minibus

We went to the stadium for a football match. We won 5:1

Shared lunch after church for a few of our volunteers

Aldo, red shirt, and his church who will be mentoring on of the young people when he leaves. Dean loves being so tall in Bolivia.

Our new volunteer, Rafael.

Enjoying a cup of English tea on the roof of our building in the sunshine.

At the 10th Anniversary party of our mission organisation

We always get asked to do something … this is the trusty old ‘Heart sketch’… we must have done it at least 200 times by now.

Amazed to see how many people are involved in ‘Serve Abroad’

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Not on our own

Something we think about regularly is that we are not doing this on our own. We obviously have each other… and spending every day together is something we will never take for granted, but we know we are not on our own. We so appreciate your support and continued interest in what we are doing. We have a great support network of friends and family back home who we know are praying for us. Our church is amazing and particularly our fabulous care group who keep sending regular updates and messages to us.  We feel certain we are in the right place at the right time. God has confirmed our calling to this work and this place at this time. We cannot do this on our own. Thank you for all who support us and those who are praying for us. We love you…

This month we have continued to work in the youth rehabilitation centres, both with the boys and with the girls. We also visit the drug rehabilitation centre once a week to lead drama workshops. These are being very well received and we are enjoying getting to know the young people and staff. One change has been that we have been asked to work with the boys in ‘senetencia’ rather than ‘preventiva’… Basically the older boys who all have guilty sentences rather than the ones on probation or warning sentences. This was rather intimidating the start with, but we are fine. Most of the boys in our drama group are aged 17- 19 years old and are there for between 3-6 years.

We took the 14 hour overnight bus to visit Hali in Santa Cruz. We wanted to see her work and encourage her. She obviously got us working straight away! We ended up showing drama sketches in the Aorero community and playing with the children whilst she met with community leaders. It was probably the most extreme poverty we have seen here in Bolivia. We also helped run a holiday club – as children here have just had two weeks off school for winter break.

Please keep in touch. We love hearing your news and messages from home. We keep checking for parcels at the post office. We know there are some on the way. Ruth and Dean Such. C/o Conexiones enter Mundos. Casilla 15. Cochabamba. Bolivia.

If you would like to support our work financially then please click on the button to link to our Stewardship account.

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We made these ninja juggling balls out of balloons and flour.

Presenting drama in the village . These children live in extreme poverty.

Friends who we have known since living in Sucre treated us to their special home made “pique a lo macho”.

These are the murals the boys at the youth rehabilitation centre painted. Which is your favourite?

Happy faces at the holiday club

Training for all the volunteers who help at the youth rehabilitation centre. So encouraging to see the team start to grow. Rafeal giving a ‘practice presentation’ to the team.

Transformation is taking shape

So after the initial flurry of being back in Bolivia, things have calmed down a bit and we’ve had a fairly normal month. The temptation to take photos of everything and carry cameras with us has passed and although things surprise us from time to time… Basically we are  just settling into our work routine.

The mural we’ve been painting is now all but finished. The children’s centre are really pleased with us and showed if off at the annual Mother’s Day celebrations, (and Teachers Day too).


We moved into our new flat here in Cochabamba. It feels nice and safe and we get a view of the mountains around the city.
Our main project here is working with young offenders. We have always thought that finding a support network for them when they leave is crucial for their chances of surviving and living a better life. So we are really excited to be involved in the Transformation Project. This aims to link churches with young people as they leave the centre. We have had a number of meetings with church leaders building up a program and training churches to receive the young people. Interdenominational stuff isn’t very common here. But the potential is amazing and it’s really exciting to be part of.

We received an anonymous donation for equipment for the boys centre. So we ventured into the cancha with our friend Milenka who acted as our guide and chief negotiator. We bought loads of supplies for our sessions and some board games. The staff are keen for the kids to play games such as Rummikub and Chess as it teaches them patience, strategy and a bit of resilience. Whenever we play you have to keep your eyes open as they love to cheat and are a bit sneaky. They even gang up on us and work as a team to take our pieces. Our friend Hali is working with a poor community and she loved playing Qwirkle so much that she is getting the men to make their own version and sell them on the market. We’ve put in an order for three sets!

We also went to a youth camp with our new church near Cochabamba. It was great to get to know everyone and have fun. We have also led a drama workshop at church for the young people.

Youth camp
Lots of fun team games
Mateus (red t shirt) looking rather apprehensive before we were supposed to carry him “superman style” around a race course. We did not drop him!
Having time to share testimonies with young people who’ve had similar experiences as boys at the rehabilitation centre.
They take their volleyball VERY seriously here!
Drama workshop

We were so happy to receive some post this month. The chocolate and decaf tea bags, jelly tots and buttons were such a treat.  We are rationing them. Thank you for the other packages that we know are on the way….

If anyone wants to send something we have a PO box. Dean and Ruth Such, c/o Connexiones enter Mundos. Casilla 15. Cochabamba. Bolivia.

Thank you everyone for your continued support and interest. You can leave a comment or send an email. It’s always great to hear your news.

These are some of the resources we found in the market for the boys centre.
Two little girls wearing their hats kitted by Kate Grey from our church. Its cold here at night at the moment (mid winter)
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Risky Business

Life in Cochabamba is never dull….. We say ‘yes’ to most things and are willing to get involved with so many different projects. Some are ‘riskier’ than others!

The boys and girls at the youth rehabilitation centre have responded really well to our drama presentations and we feel that we have developed some great relationships already. We visit regularly and have started to lead some sessions and Bible teaching. Just having time to talk to them and for them to share their stories has been a real breakthrough.
(More information on our Newsletter). Due to new restrictions we are not allowed to take photos in either the girls or the boys prison/rehabilitation centres. Sorry.

We have had Nick and Naomi visiting us from the UK this month. It has been so much fun to show them around and get them involved in our projects. We took them into the youth rehabilitation centre to meet both the teenage boys and the girls. We played sports and games with them – an interesting England vs Bolivia football match  as well as  teaching them ultimate frizzbee. We also taught them a drama to illustrate a Bible study which went really well.

Nick and Naomi were keen to work with children, so we went back to help at Amor and Amistad, which is a children’s centre for kids who live in a very poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of the town. Many of the children live in a local orphanage because their parents are in the prison and others are left alone in the afternoon because their parents work. The centre provide them with a safe space to come and do homework and a daily Bible study and a healthy nutritious snack. Nick was asked to run sports classes and Naomi was leading art classes. They also asked us to paint a mural on a new wall they had built around the steps of the playground. Naomi is a fabulous artist/set designer… so we took up the challenge (Nick and I were chief paint mixers, brush washers and background painters). See below for some idea of the progression and nearly finished result. We were so pleased to see the mural we painted back in 2009 still looking great.

We love hiking and try to get out of the city and see parts of Bolivia in our time off. One weekend we decided to organise a hike along the ‘Choro trial’ which is an ancient Inca footpath between La Paz and Corico. It starts at El Cumbre at 4400m and finishes in the jungle 1350m. It is a difficult trail as it is mostly downhill on slippery steps and crosses a number of rivers. Not many people do this hike and on our three day walk we only saw three other people the whole time. What we didn’t know when we left the summit was that three out of the four bridges had recently been swept away and had been replaced with makeshift ‘bridges’; which were basically logs tied together with pieces of flimsy wire and string, balanced on the rocks, jammed together with pebbles and branches. To say it would not have passed the ‘Health and safety risk assessment’ is an understatement. We did survive and we did have a wonderful time with our mission co-ordinator Mauge and friends.

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Meeting up with Wilson who has been released from the youth rehabilitation centre and is moving to live with his aunts.

Our 2009 mural

Painting a line of children from different nations following Jesus at the Centro de Amor y Amistad

Risky business… walking over one of the wobbly ‘bridges’

Never been so excited to see a pot noodle after walking 10 hours in the rain!