Rehab…. But not as we know it…

If anyone had said to us six months ago that we would be working in a youth prison, I don’t think I would have believed them. But God has a funny way of guiding us and preparing us for what He wants us to do.

Over the past few weeks we have had many meetings with the youth rehabilitation centre on the outskirts of Cochabamba. They don’t like to call it a prison, but that is what it literally is. The young people have been convicted of crimes and do not have the freedom to leave… So it is prison…. But not as we know it.

The leaders have asked for our continued help and drama sessions even to the point where they would like us to give some training to the staff.

One centre is called Camino (which means Walk or the Way). This centre is for young people that have been living on the streets and have different drug addictions, but in the main they are glue sniffers or ‘cleferos’ as they are called here in Bolivia. We have been going in once a week, using drama sketches to build their self esteem and teach values. After each session they have been really willing to chat about their feelings and reflect a little on the morals and their own experiences. It is early days, and obviously it takes time to build up a level of trust. But with our team of Bolivian volunteers we think that this is a great way to show them how much God loves them and make changes to their outlook on life.

The second centre is called San Benito. This is a half way house/young people’s home. The young girls, aged 13 to 18, that leave the prison and have no home to go to other than the street usually live here. This is quite a long journey out of town – about an hour and a bit, so we are not sure if we can go every week. But we would love to build on the relationships that we have already started here. Unfortunately, one of the girls we had known from the start has escaped from this place, we are quite sad that we may not see her again. We are praying for a chance meeting on the street.

After our meetings with the leaders we have committed to a 12 week programme with the 80 boys in the prison. Many of these young men have been involved in drug trafficking, drug use, gangs, sexual abuse, violence or rape. They all have a sentence of between three months and three years. Most of these lads have never had teaching on citizenship or community values and again we believe that using drama will help teach valuable lessons and form part of their restorative justice program. It is really challenging but we feel it is the place were we need to be.

The team:
Milenka: Loves drama, a five foot one bundle of fun.
Carla: Team member and qualified psychologist
Carla number 2: member of our drama team and physiotherapist.
Mauge: Our Spanish teacher, she will be helping with a nutrition and cooking course
Jesse: Son of the pastor and drama leader.
Daniella: Amazing worship leader and song writer/chef
Richard: Latin Link Strider. Opened all the doors into the prison for us. Basically his name is our password to enter through the gates!

Matthew 25 vs 38-40 . This is a verse which has been on our minds since we got here.
When did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

Our postal address is
Ruth and Dean Such
C/o Conexiones entre mundos
Casilla 15
Cochabamba
Bolivia

Fundraising account:
Mr D Such
Barclays
Sort code 20 39 07
Account no. 50163678
(Any donations will be used to serve the different projects we are involved with).

Unfortunately we are not allowed to show any faces of the young people due to security risks.

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Every week Richard brings food for the new prisoners in the cells. Newly arrested prisoners are not fed by the staff and it is up to each family to provide food for their own. Unfortunately may come here from the street and do not have family.

 

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Living la vida loca

We’ve never been to Carnival in Bolivia before, so we decided this year it was time for us to venture to Oruro for the February festival.
We went with our friend Juana, who has family who live along the parade route. It was quite an experience. Literally thousands and thousands of dancers and musicians lined the streets as far as you could see. The parade started at 7.30 in the morning and went on until about 5.30 the following morning. Then they swapped the order and it all started again until midnight the next day. The dancers came from all over Bolivia and were from different societies and communities. For example the truck drivers had a brass band and a dancing group, the university students, the miners, the people who live on the floating islands on Lake Titicaca. All jumping and swaying and crashing about with cymbals, bells and feathers, knee high boots and short skirts!
I guess the pictures do not do it justice, but are a flavour of what it was like.
Thank you for your continued support. Please leave a message.

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Oh… And no-one told us about the foam!!! Sprayed at random, at everyone, all the time during carnival… Especially at us poor gringos trying to take a sneaky selfie!

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Carnival continued when we went to the youth rehabilitation centre and the chicos decided to throw Dean into the mud pit and drench him with water!

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