Lights… Camera…action

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

Barclays  20-39-07

Account number 50163678

Our postal address is: Dean and Ruth Such

C/O Conexiones entre Mundos, Casilla 15. Cochabamba, Bolivia. South America


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Inside Out…

A whole month has past since our last blog. Since then we have made more friends, performed more dramas, painted a mural, been bitten by more mosquitos and deepened our relationships in the youth prison. I can now almost get away with wearing a base ball cap and greeting people with a fist punch, even though our street language leaves a lot to be desired; the young people can tell that we love them so we tend to get away with it.

Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoon we are greeted at the gates by a different policeman, our bags are no longer checked as they are used to seeing our faces. As the light breaks through the gates our gaze turns to the shadows as this is where the ‘newbies’ sit waiting to have their heads shaved. Many have come from the streets and have head lice, many have sores around their face from the glue sniffing and drug abuse. They glance up at us, and in the back of your mind you realise that you would think twice before approaching them on the outside, but a stretched out hand and a few kind words softens their tough exterior. You start to wonder why they have been sent here and what crimes they may have committed. But generally we don’t ask as this helps us to treat each one as an equal. We know that they need to face up to what they have done at some stage, but it’s far easier to keep the judgement to one side whilst getting to know them.

We usually spend the next 15 minutes wandering round the site. The prison has high walls and barbed wire to keep everyone in, but it’s not like any prison we have seen or even heard of in UK. Sometimes the atmosphere feels a bit like a youth camp, only the young people are more polite and better behaved here!

By now all the 80-90 inmates and staff know us quite well and as we walk we can hear the names Dino, Ruth and Ricardo being shouted from across the ‘cancha’. We are greeted with hugs, hand shakes and fist punches whilst some of the inmates try out their latest English phrases on us. “Smoke weed”, “Hello mate” and “Hello baby” seem to be their favourites. The more astute have now figured out that two of these greetings are gender specific… which is a bonus.

Once the guards realize we have arrived it’s not long before role call is in full swing in the blazing heat of the day and the young people are selected to join our session. At this point we prepare the hall and start to fully rely on the prayers we have have just said in the taxi beforehand…

The young people have responded well to the sessions, we are now about half way through. We concentrate on one theme per week for example; friendship, life choices, self control, citizenship, community, self worth. Each Bible based session focuses on one big question, a drama performance, a discussion and team games.

At first some of them just wanted to watch but now most, if not all, are fully engaged with the drama and are sharing their thoughts with the rest of the group. It can be quite tough when you feel you are making progress, then you hear that some have escaped back to the streets. Recently one of the girls that escaped a few months ago returned. She was found by the police with a gang that hangs out near the cemetery. It seems that her family don’t want to be involved. She is back with us now but is suffering the effects of glue sniffing. Slow speech and slow reactions:( It’s hard to know what to do in this situation but a hug and a few kind words brought a smile to her face. We may start seeing  her regularly on visiting days.

Ruth has commented a few times that this work is so far removed from what we have been used to. It certainly isn’t St. Albans High School for Girls! But we are amazed at were God takes us when you make yourself available to Him.

Tonight we are meeting one of the lads who has been through the rehabilitation system. He was perceived as the ‘head honcho’ when we met him in November. He was released a month ago and called my number out of the blue. It sounds like he has his life back on track, but now I guess the hard work starts… We are now trying to link him up with a church we know in Santa Cruz.

We would love to show you some images of the work but unfortunately we are not allowed to take photos in COMETA the main prison/rehab centre.

Below are some photos of other projects we have been involved with in the past month:)

If you would like to donate towards our work here in Bolivia please use the details below.
Fundraising account
Barclays  20-39-07
Account number 50163678
Thank you for your continued interest and support.

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Another exciting night of Street Drama:)

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We were asked to perform a evening of drama at Camp Kewina. 120 Young people from Emanual College. An amazing 2 day trip out in the countryside.
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Joel, Milenka, Ruthie, Karla, Daniella.
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Traveling to the camp.
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We also volunteered our services to paint Camp Kewina’s new sign.

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The finished product!
The finished product!
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Enjoying the amazing countryside at Kewina.
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Time spent at the Girls home in San Benito.
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One of our many favourites:)
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Birthday parcels! Only 2 weeks late…
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Celebrating Dean’s Birthday. 31 again!
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Thanks Daniella. Saving the Cadburys Chocolate for best!
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Nearly finished! Just the waves and the mice to paint…

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