Time flies when you are busy…. We cannot believe we celebrated our one year anniversary here in Bolivia on 25th September.
We returned to COMETA to begin the second phase of our work there. We have been teaching drama and mime alongside team building/ self esteem games. A number of the boys have been released, which is great news, and we hope they will come to the drop in centre which is open once a month. Being here for an extended length of time has given us the opportunity to get to know some of the boys better and find out about their home situation. It is hard to see some of them return to their old lifestyle after being in the rehabilitation centre. It is like there is an invisible elastic band pulling them back. It just shows how much power their addictions have over them and the consequences of not having a structured or stable family life. We saw one of the boys from CAMINO named J, in the park sniffing glue in the middle of the day. He hardly recognised us, even though we had been working with him for months. What would you do? He was asking us for money, saying he was hungry. But we knew if we gave him money he would probably just spend it on drugs. So we went home and made him some soup, bought some bread and a drink. By the time we went back to give it to him – he was gone. The next day we got in touch with the social workers who said they were aware of where he was, but couldn’t force him to go back to CAMINO. Another girl, A, had been released, but had no-one to look after her, so she was sent to the half way house for girls, but escaped and has been caught being involved in a robbery. She is back in COMETA and although it is sad to see her back, she is probably safer there than in her life outside on the streets. Another boy, JC, who has officially finished his sentence, but no-one from his family will come to collect him, so he is stuck in limbo, every day waiting by the gates hoping his Mum or Dad will show up.
We were asked to run a family day at the rehabilitation centre one Sunday afternoon. This was supposed to create an atmosphere where the parents can spend time with their children and participate in games together, creating memories in a positive environment. So we created a fun quiz, got them to construct wobbly towers from spaghetti and marshmallows, played games and Richard took refreshments. It was lovely to see the parents join in, laughing and smiling with the young people. Often the atmosphere on visitors day is pretty painful, but the event ended with many parents thanking us publicly for our work.
Our neighbour here, Anna, is the country director for the charity Tearfund. She received a team of UK volunteers who partner with Bolivian young people on local projects. She asked us to run a drama training day. We said yes, of course! It was fun to work with UK volunteers (with the luxury of speaking English and having a translator for the Bolivian young people!) They will be working with HIV and AIDS education, abused women and children from disadvantaged backgrounds. By the end of two hours we had oscar winning performances and lots of laughter. Drama really is a great way of communicating a message – especially if you are willing to laugh and not take yourself too seriously.
After a lot of prayer and thought we have decided to stay here until March/ April next year. Even though our visa runs out in December, we have worked out that we can leave the country for a few weeks and come back as tourists for 90 days. This means we will have a bit more time to prepare for a team coming from Hemel Hempstead – Expressions. Please support them as much as you can…
We were really pleased when two new projects came our way recently. One was a girls refuge called Mosoj Yan. This is a place where girls can go to live if they have been sexually abused and have a baby. The girls are aged between 12-17. They have counselling and activities on site. They learn how to look after themselves and their babies. We have been invited to teach drama as a way of discussing principals from the Bible and self esteem. We can be much more evangelistic here as the organisation is run by Christians. So far they have been really enthusiastic and responded positively. By far the hardest thing for us is seeing the scars from self harm running up their arms – these girls are so young.
A small Christian school have partnered with our volunteer organisation, Serve abroad (www.serveabroad.com) and are interested in receiving teacher training. So I have volunteered to “Adopt a Teacher” which is basically being a mentor to a teacher. Her name is Belen (Bethlehem) and she teaches year 3. It has been interesting so far. I have been observing lessons and giving feedback. Now we are sharing some ideas and team teaching. It will also involve doing some staff training over the next couple of months.
Last weekend we went to hike the Choro trail from La Paz to Coroico. This is an Inca built trail starting at El Cumbre (4100m) climbing to 4900m and passing over the mountain summit then descending to Chairo at 1200m. We did this hike 7 years ago with our friend Caz, but this time we went with Mauge our Spanish teacher and a number of other students from the language school. So armed with our tents, water and supplies for three days hiking we set off. It was a real adventure. We only saw two other groups on the trail – apart from the llamas and condors. We remembered it all being downhill, but obviously we had selectively forgotten about the steep inclines and slippery steps aptly named the Steps of Diablo. After walking 21 km on day 1, 17 km on day 2 and 16 km on day 3 we finished feeling shattered with aching knees and a few blisters and bug bites to show for our achievements. The scenery was spectacular.
We now have a few weeks ahead to continue with our work. We are hoping to make up a number of Christmas boxes for the boys in the youth centre and the girls at the refuge, so if you would like to donate towards that then please let us know. Our account for donations is Barclays, Mr D J Such 20-39-07. Account number 50163678
Thanks for taking an interest in what we are up to here in Bolivia. We always love to hear from friends and family back home so leave a message to keep in touch. Our postal address is Ruth and Dean Such, Conexiones entre mundos. Casilla 15, Cochabamba, Bolivia. Packages take about 8 weeks!!