There are times when words cannot express how you feel. You feel like your voice has just evaporated and your vocal cords have been paralysed by some strange force.
That is how we felt last week. When we saw Yolanda and Alvaro.
When we were here in 2007-2009 we spent a lot of time in a district of Sucre called Horno Casa. We painted, we cleaned, we built paths, we taught Bible stories, we helped with homework, we taught them about healthy food and basic health, we pushed our way past the piggies, served a healthy snack and bought them some books, which they proudly called their “library”.
So last week we went back to visit the project with Phil and Jan Train. Although the project has moved locations numerous times, they still provide a place for the kids to go and do their homework and study every day. Our little collection of books has grown into a bookcase full of study aids. The tables and chairs we bought have survived. They now have their own cooker to prepare a healthy snack every day. We were blown away by the sheer resilience and faithfulness of the two volunteer workers who serve this desperately poor community.
Then it was one of the double take moments… One of the young people smiled at me and in an instant we recognised her as one of the little kids we worked with in 2007. Her name is Yolanda. She has been using the education centre every day as a place where she can do her homework. She is now in the last but one year of high school, having passed every year. (Here in Bolivia you are held back a year of school if you do not pass the end of year exams… So some children can be 7 or 8 and still be in kindergarten, if they do not get the support they need.)
Yolanda then took out a photo from her backpack. It was a picture of us that she had kept from 2009 and the children’s Bible we gave to each of the kids when we left. We both had tears in our eyes as we looked at her, then read the message we’d written in the front cover, then looked at the battered and dog-eared pages of this precious book. She was so happy to see us. So proud of what she’d achieved and we were overcome with emotion. At the time, with our limited Spanish and resources, we were never sure how much of a difference we were making. But Yolanda showed us another photo of her group of friends and was beaming as she told us that one was at university, one had graduated from school, another had a job. It was amazing.
Then another teenager, came and gave us a massive bear hug. Alvaro. He told us he is still at school, wants to be an engineer, loves maths, has ambitions to be a professional footballer – maybe for Chelsea- and remembers the dramas we used to do.
We also had the chance to see old friends at CCE church. We tried explaining that we were there on ‘holiday’ and were aiming to have a bit of a rest, but nevertheless we spoke at the church on Sunday morning, did two dramas at the church on Sunday night, led a group for university students and did two drama workshops for the youth night. Busy but fun. We also managed to see friends for our favourite Bolivian snack, saltañas, and climb onto the roof of one of the oldest churches. Don’t be fooled by the blue sky and sunshine. Sucre was pretty chilly. In fact we wore thermals the whole time. It was so nice to catch up with our dear friends Phil and Jan Train who totally spoilt us rotten with their generous hospitality and kindness.
We then had a slight change of plan and decided to go to a small town called Corocio for a few days. This is the place at the end of the famous Death road which Top Gear drove up on their Bolivia special. We have heard too many stories of people falling off the edge to cycle or travel down that one. Instead we went in a local minibus with a coca leaf chewing driver hurtling around the corners of the new multi-million dollar tarmac road. Marginally safer.. But only just. We stayed at a hostal which had individual bamboo cabins and treehouses. It was lovely. Proper bathrooms and glass in the windows to keep out the bugs. Dean decided to go all Bear Grylls and we hiked through the jungle and he started a campfire each night with just his flint… No matches allowed! The views were spectacular. But again pretty chilly. It is middle of winter here at the moment.
With Yolanda in 2015, holding our photo from 2009 and her Bible.
Yolanda in 2007 with her Christmas presents.
Yolanda with her little sisters in 2009
With tears in our eyes… The library can be seen in the background.
At Horno Casa where the children do their homework every day.
With Phil looking at the new plot of land they have bought.
The friendly youth group at CCE church.
Our lovely friends Elenir and Hugo
On the plaza. Shamelessly posing as tourists.
I love the central market. My old casera was there, but didn’t recognise me.😥
With Daniel Arostigi… Seriously upping of coolness for the day!
Banny, who used to teach us Spanish, was very impressed how much we’ve improved. Or was she just being gorgeously kind as usual?
Jan. What more can we say…. We love you!
Happy wedding anniversary meal. XX
A few pictures from our break in Corocio. It was cold. But the views were spectacular.
We are self funding our trip here this time. We are able to give any donations directly to the projects we work with when they identify needs. If you would like to make a donation please use the bank details below, which is specifically for this purpose.
Barclays Bank Mr D J Such. Sort Code 20-39-07. Account number 50163678
Postal address. Casilla 15. Cochabamba. Bolivia. South America