10th Anniversary of Serve Abroad

So this month has been a month of drama workshops and visitors. Our work in the youth rehabilitation centre has continued to be fun and to be well received by the young people. Our sessions always involve a game, a drama and an interactive activity. We have had many great conversations and questions from the boys. It feels encouraging to be able to communicate a bit better each week, as our Spanish improves and they gain confidence in us.

This month we had a ‘friend of a friend’s niece’ stay for a week and also two girls, Lauren and Jessie, from UK who were backpacking around South America. We took the girls with us to Camino and were able to take a few photos of the boys playing with the parachute and getting involved in our activity.

It was the 10th Anniversary of our mission organisation, ‘Serve Abroad’. We joined with Mauge in celebrating how much has been accomplished by having a party with all the mission partners here in Cochabamba. We presented a drama to everyone there. Our first contact with the mission was through the language school back in 2007. We have lots of happy memories of our first visit, staying with a lady called Dona Carmen – eating green soup! and walking past the smelly bins on the walk to school everyday. Dean designed the original logo for Serve Abroad and we were there to encourage Mauge in the very beginning to set up a volunteer program for her language students. This blog has all the old photos archived from those days… we look so young!

We have also had a number of training sessions for the team of volunteers who work in the youth rehabilitation centre on Saturday afternoons. We have been trying to show them that an alternative to preaching is to teach with interactive activities to encourage the youth to think and talk about their ideas. This is quite different to how school operates here, where the emphasis is on rote memorisation.

Many pastors who are keen to receive young people when they are released from the centre, also came to a training session this month. The first church is preparing to start their transition visits this month and are ready to begin their discipleship with ‘E’ who will be leaving soon.

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Sunday morning hike up the steps to the Jesus Satue
Squashed into the back of a Bolivian minibus
We went to the stadium for a football match. We won 5:1
A few games with the boys at the drug rehabilitation and addiction centre
Writing our mistakes on balloons before we got to pop them.
Having fun … such complete joy!

Our new friends J and J.
Shared lunch after church for a few of our volunteers
Aldo, red shirt, and his church who will be mentoring on of the young people when he leaves. Dean loves being so tall in Bolivia.
Our new volunteer, Rafael.
Enjoying a cup of English tea on the roof of our building in the sunshine.
At the 10th Anniversary party of our mission organisation
We always get asked to do something … this is the trusty old ‘Heart sketch’… we must have done it at least 200 times by now.
Amazed to see how many people are involved in ‘Serve Abroad’

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Not on our own

Something we think about regularly is that we are not doing this on our own. We obviously have each other… and spending every day together is something we will never take for granted, but we know we are not on our own. We so appreciate your support and continued interest in what we are doing. We have a great support network of friends and family back home who we know are praying for us. Our church is amazing and particularly our fabulous care group who keep sending regular updates and messages to us.  We feel certain we are in the right place at the right time. God has confirmed our calling to this work and this place at this time. We cannot do this on our own. Thank you for all who support us and those who are praying for us. We love you…

This month we have continued to work in the youth rehabilitation centres, both with the boys and with the girls. We also visit the drug rehabilitation centre once a week to lead drama workshops. These are being very well received and we are enjoying getting to know the young people and staff. One change has been that we have been asked to work with the boys in ‘senetencia’ rather than ‘preventiva’… Basically the older boys who all have guilty sentences rather than the ones on probation or warning sentences. This was rather intimidating the start with, but we are fine. Most of the boys in our drama group are aged 17- 19 years old and are there for between 3-6 years.

We took the 14 hour overnight bus to visit Hali in Santa Cruz. We wanted to see her work and encourage her. She obviously got us working straight away! We ended up showing drama sketches in the Aorero community and playing with the children whilst she met with community leaders. It was probably the most extreme poverty we have seen here in Bolivia. We also helped run a holiday club – as children here have just had two weeks off school for winter break.

Please keep in touch. We love hearing your news and messages from home. We keep checking for parcels at the post office. We know there are some on the way. Ruth and Dean Such. C/o Conexiones enter Mundos. Casilla 15. Cochabamba. Bolivia.

If you would like to support our work financially then please click on the button to link to our Stewardship account.

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We made these ninja juggling balls out of balloons and flour.
Presenting drama in the village . These children live in extreme poverty.
Friends who we have known since living in Sucre treated us to their special home made “pique a lo macho”.
These are the murals the boys at the youth rehabilitation centre painted. Which is your favourite?

Happy faces at the holiday club
Training for all the volunteers who help at the youth rehabilitation centre. So encouraging to see the team start to grow. Rafeal giving a ‘practice presentation’ to the team.

Transformation is taking shape

So after the initial flurry of being back in Bolivia, things have calmed down a bit and we’ve had a fairly normal month. The temptation to take photos of everything and carry cameras with us has passed and although things surprise us from time to time… Basically we are  just settling into our work routine.

The mural we’ve been painting is now all but finished. The children’s centre are really pleased with us and showed if off at the annual Mother’s Day celebrations, (and Teachers Day too).


We moved into our new flat here in Cochabamba. It feels nice and safe and we get a view of the mountains around the city.
Our main project here is working with young offenders. We have always thought that finding a support network for them when they leave is crucial for their chances of surviving and living a better life. So we are really excited to be involved in the Transformation Project. This aims to link churches with young people as they leave the centre. We have had a number of meetings with church leaders building up a program and training churches to receive the young people. Interdenominational stuff isn’t very common here. But the potential is amazing and it’s really exciting to be part of.

We received an anonymous donation for equipment for the boys centre. So we ventured into the cancha with our friend Milenka who acted as our guide and chief negotiator. We bought loads of supplies for our sessions and some board games. The staff are keen for the kids to play games such as Rummikub and Chess as it teaches them patience, strategy and a bit of resilience. Whenever we play you have to keep your eyes open as they love to cheat and are a bit sneaky. They even gang up on us and work as a team to take our pieces. Our friend Hali is working with a poor community and she loved playing Qwirkle so much that she is getting the men to make their own version and sell them on the market. We’ve put in an order for three sets!

We also went to a youth camp with our new church near Cochabamba. It was great to get to know everyone and have fun. We have also led a drama workshop at church for the young people.

Youth camp
Lots of fun team games
Mateus (red t shirt) looking rather apprehensive before we were supposed to carry him “superman style” around a race course. We did not drop him!
Having time to share testimonies with young people who’ve had similar experiences as boys at the rehabilitation centre.
They take their volleyball VERY seriously here!
Drama workshop

We were so happy to receive some post this month. The chocolate and decaf tea bags, jelly tots and buttons were such a treat.  We are rationing them. Thank you for the other packages that we know are on the way….

If anyone wants to send something we have a PO box. Dean and Ruth Such, c/o Connexiones enter Mundos. Casilla 15. Cochabamba. Bolivia.

Thank you everyone for your continued support and interest. You can leave a comment or send an email. It’s always great to hear your news.

These are some of the resources we found in the market for the boys centre.
Two little girls wearing their hats kitted by Kate Grey from our church. Its cold here at night at the moment (mid winter)
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Risky Business

Life in Cochabamba is never dull….. We say ‘yes’ to most things and are willing to get involved with so many different projects. Some are ‘riskier’ than others!

The boys and girls at the youth rehabilitation centre have responded really well to our drama presentations and we feel that we have developed some great relationships already. We visit regularly and have started to lead some sessions and Bible teaching. Just having time to talk to them and for them to share their stories has been a real breakthrough.
(More information on our Newsletter). Due to new restrictions we are not allowed to take photos in either the girls or the boys prison/rehabilitation centres. Sorry.

We have had Nick and Naomi visiting us from the UK this month. It has been so much fun to show them around and get them involved in our projects. We took them into the youth rehabilitation centre to meet both the teenage boys and the girls. We played sports and games with them – an interesting England vs Bolivia football match  as well as  teaching them ultimate frizzbee. We also taught them a drama to illustrate a Bible study which went really well.

Nick and Naomi were keen to work with children, so we went back to help at Amor and Amistad, which is a children’s centre for kids who live in a very poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of the town. Many of the children live in a local orphanage because their parents are in the prison and others are left alone in the afternoon because their parents work. The centre provide them with a safe space to come and do homework and a daily Bible study and a healthy nutritious snack. Nick was asked to run sports classes and Naomi was leading art classes. They also asked us to paint a mural on a new wall they had built around the steps of the playground. Naomi is a fabulous artist/set designer… so we took up the challenge (Nick and I were chief paint mixers, brush washers and background painters). See below for some idea of the progression and nearly finished result. We were so pleased to see the mural we painted back in 2009 still looking great.

We love hiking and try to get out of the city and see parts of Bolivia in our time off. One weekend we decided to organise a hike along the ‘Choro trial’ which is an ancient Inca footpath between La Paz and Corico. It starts at El Cumbre at 4400m and finishes in the jungle 1350m. It is a difficult trail as it is mostly downhill on slippery steps and crosses a number of rivers. Not many people do this hike and on our three day walk we only saw three other people the whole time. What we didn’t know when we left the summit was that three out of the four bridges had recently been swept away and had been replaced with makeshift ‘bridges’; which were basically logs tied together with pieces of flimsy wire and string, balanced on the rocks, jammed together with pebbles and branches. To say it would not have passed the ‘Health and safety risk assessment’ is an understatement. We did survive and we did have a wonderful time with our mission co-ordinator Mauge and friends.

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Meeting up with Wilson who has been released from the youth rehabilitation centre and is moving to live with his aunts.

Our 2009 mural
Painting a line of children from different nations following Jesus at the Centro de Amor y Amistad

Risky business… walking over one of the wobbly ‘bridges’
Never been so excited to see a pot noodle after walking 10 hours in the rain!

Busy being Bolivian

We have been busy over the past few weeks. We were asked to present a drama on the plaza alongside the team of Bolivian volunteers who we started training three years ago. It was amazing to see how the team has grown and now there are about 20 people involved with the drama and an additional 30 who go to help and talk to people in the audience. The team range in age from 14 – 80! Everyone gets involved and there was a fabulous crowd of about 300 people.

This drama is about Superheros. It was so funny.
Us doing the Heart sketch… a big crowd had gathered to watch.

Here is the pastor of the church chatting to a few people in the crowd. They gave out sandwiches and coffee to everyone at the end.

Hali, who is a dear friend of ours from when we were here last, came to visit us for the weekend. She works with young girls in Santa Cruz who are at risk of entering the sex trade. We have been supporting and mentoring her for the past few years and it was great to see her again. Every Sunday before church we try to climb the steep steps to the top of the hill where there is a statue of Christ. We only just made it… partly due to the altitude. Life at 2500m above sea level makes your heart race and its hard to breathe.

Cochabamba

Exhausted at the top of the 1240 steps
Hali (with the hat) and her friend Tabby

As you can imagine, it is quite hard tracking down some of the young people who leave the rehabilitation centre. They often have very chaotic lives and do not have a permanent place to live. One special person who we have managed to keep in touch with is Lucy. We knew her for two years in 2014 – 2016 when she was in and out of the centre where we worked. She has a baby now and we saw her yesterday to catch up on how she is doing and what has happened since we last saw her in 2017. We gave her a knitted hat for her daughter, made by a lady from our church. She loved it.

Just chatting in the plaza with Lucy

We have arrived

After a 22 hour journey we arrived in Bolivia on Thursday 21 March…. Thankfully with all our cases and luggage intact. It already feels like we have been here a month! It has been lovely to see friends and enjoy some delicious Bolivian hospitality.

At the moment we are living in a mission guesthouse, which is very comfortable. It is just round the corner from where we used to live, so it is nice to be in familiar surroundings. We went to the Saturday market and were recognised by some of the sellers and have already bumped into people we know in the street.

We were invited into the youth rehabilitation centre on Thursday afternoon and Saturday night. It was a great atmosphere. Most of the boys are new, but a few remembered us from our visit last summer.

Over the next week we will be starting our visa application and also try to find somewhere to live. We will be re-visiting all the projects we have been involved with and seeing how things have changed.

Our postal address here in Cochabamba is: Dean and Ruth Such, c/o Conexiones Entre Mundos, Casilla 15 Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Things can take up to a month to get here. Best to wrap it up well in plastic and declare anything as ‘household items’ Anything valuable or interesting goes missing.

View from our bedroom window in the guesthouse
Saturday Market shopping
Candyfloss ?

Plans, packing and police checks

So… After feeling like we have been in ‘limbo’ for a few months, we are now incredibly excited to say that we have decided to start planning to return to Bolivia in March! Ruth’s dad is still poorly, but he is much more stable than he was in the summer and we are pleased that he is responding well to all his medical treatment. We feel strongly that we are supposed to return to Bolivia to continue our work with the children, youth rehabilitation centre and the drama ministry. God has been working through us in this time of waiting. Our hearts are full with an amazing amount of love and compassion for the young people, and we are preparing ourselves for how He is going to work through and and use us in the future. We say ‘Yes’ to most things… So watch this space!

We are busy booking things and packing boxes, as well as doing all the reams of paperwork and police checks that are necessary. We know the system (although in Bolivia the system can change week to week.. So we are holding our breadth) and we are trying to get everything we need together. 

We have a little wish list of things we’d love to take with us: a play parachute, some reusable nappies, some frisbees and bible story cubes…

We are still a little short of our fundraising target, but are so grateful for God’s provision and faithfulness. Our Stewardship account is the easiest way to support our work if you feel able. We would also like you to be involved and pray for us, both in the next few weeks and also over the whole time we are away. We will be updating this website and also posting pictures of what we are up to.

Enjoying a walk on the beach in Gower at Christmas