Back in February we had our first meeting with the SEDEGES co-ordinator and Richard. After a bit of a slow start, due to about 100 “meetings”, we began working in the two rehabilitation centres here in Cochabamaba. As our Spanish has gradually improved we have learnt more about the system here in Bolivia. We committed to a twelve week program at both the drug rehabilitation centre and COMETA, which is like a prison, but they don’t like to call it a prison.
We had our twelfth session with the drug rehabilitation boys last week. We took some games and goodies to share, but we had an unexpected surprise. They had prepared a drama for us. They acted out a series of scenes from their lives.
Scene one… Glue sniffing on the streets, huddled around a plastic bag full of fumes, trying to keep warm. They see a woman with a mobile phone, they decide to try and rob her.
Scene two… The police catch them, throw them on the floor, roughly push them against the wall. Hit them, beat them up, kick them. Grab one and take him to the cells. The others make a run for it.
Scene three… Back to glue sniffing. Two of the social workers come and chat to them and ask them their ages. Invite them to come to the rehabilitation centre. Describe it as a place they will be safe, sleep in a bed, have enough food and can get their lives back on track. Some of the boys go with them. Some say no and stay in the streets.
Scene four… In the centre. Group sessions. Education. Drama. Games. Dances. Washing clothes. Chatting to the staff.
Scene five… One year later… The boys are walking down the street and they see the social workers. They rush up to them and give them massive hugs. Tell them that they are going to college. One has a job in a restaurant. Really thankful for all their help.
Scene six… Turn the corner and see their old friends, still hanging around on the street, sniffing glue and trying to rob or beg for money. They try and tell them they should agree to go to the rehabilitation centre to change their lives.
Now it’s not likely to win an Oscar or anything. But it was amazing to see that they had actually practiced something. We had been trying to teach them about empathy and trying to see that their actions have consequences. We felt so proud that they could think how other people could feel and the simple past- present- future was such a success. The staff of the centre were amazed to see how the kids could express their feelings. During the twelve weeks there were times when we all felt that it was just crowd control. It was definitely on the chaos side of control. But looking back maybe something did sink in.
One boy “J” told us afterwards that his life was like the drama. He wanted to stay at the centre for as long as possible. He thanked us for giving up our time to help. He said that he’d enjoyed the drama and games. He had never done anything like that before. Then asked with a cheeky smile if we knew any agents in Hollywood!
J is likely to move up a stage soon to go to another section called Communidad. This gives him freedom to go out to college during the day and learn more life skills in preparation for life outside, including cooking, growing vegetables and a practical skill. We’ll keep you posted on his progress.
We also had the chance to help train some student volunteers who serve at camp Kewiña. We did the first of a series of drama workshops. They had tonnes of creative ideas. We loved the motorbike handlebars and the traffic accident scene!
Some of the boys at COMETA have moved up a stage to the community program. We went to see their graduation ceremony.
People say food is the international language of friendship, so we were delighted to invite some of the staff from COMETA to our house for dinner. The banoffee pie was a great success… And the mojitos too!
Thank you to all the people who have sent us parcels this month. We had a lovely surprise of chocolate, tea bags and rhubarb and custards? Thanks DK for the malaria tablets. You are a star.
We had our first, but hopefully not our last, guests from the UK. Ellie and James from Hemel Hempstead came to visit.
It was Mother’s Day here in Bolivia this month and we did a special event for the children and their parents at Centro de Apoyo y Amistad. Snazzy new Tshirts with our “Expresiones” logo on them.
The weather in Cochabamba continues to be glorious.
Thank you to everyone for your continued thoughts and prayers. We really appreciate your support.
If you would like to donate towards our work here in Bolivia please use the details below.
Fundraising account MR D J SUCH
Account number 50163678
Our postal address is: Dean and Ruth Such
C/O Conexiones entre Mundos, Casilla 15. Cochabamba, Bolivia. South America