While I was in Bolivia, the first week in April, I had the privilege of spending time at center BO416 in El Alto, La Paz. This was a wonderful center and the children were so beautiful and loving. This was the very first center we visited and the minute a child wrapped their arms around me, I couldn't hold in the happy tears for being there. The center workers were so passionate and the pastor of the church was so excited for us to be there, and said he had been dreaming of the day people would visit his center!
This area of Bolivia was very poor and many of the houses we visited were just one small room. Their diet consists of maize, bananas, bread, beef, rice, and potatoes. Common health problems include dental decay, stomach illnesses, and colds. Most adults are unemployed but some work as street vendors or day laborers making about $85 a month. The most common languages are Spanish and Aymara. My Rosa, who lives very close to this area, speaks both of these languages. I have 4 children from this center that I am looking for sponsors for, and I'm excited to introduce you to them.
First, here is 4 year old Luz
Luz lives with her mom and dad and 4 siblings. Her father is sometimes employed as a teacher and her mother maintains the home. Luz is a big help to her mom, because she helps with the cleaning. Luz is not attending school yet, but she does attend church activities regularly. She loves playing with dolls. Luz' birthday is April 8, 2008. Let me know if you are interested in sponsoring her!
Next we have, 5 year old Geronimo
Geronimo lives with just his grandmother and a sibling. It doesn't say that he is an orphan so I'm not sure why he doesn't live with his parents. He helps his grandmother at home by cleaning. His grandmother is sometimes employed as a seller in the market. Geronimo is not yet in school, but he does attend the church activities. He loves playing with cars. His birthday is April 18, 2007. if you are interested in sponsoring this child, let me know!
Here is 6 year old Marioly
Marioly lives with just her mom and 4 other siblings. Her mother is only sometimes employed so that must make it hard to take care of her family. Marioly also helps out at home by cleaning. She loves playing with dolls and she is doing average in primary school. She regularly attends the church activities. Marioly's birthday is February 28, 2006. I would love to find a sponsor for this girl so let me know if you would like to sponsor her!
And lastly, almost 5 year old Kevin
I am not positive, but I think that I may have met Kevin. If it is the same little boy that I think it is than he has a beautiful family and 3 sweet sisters. Kevin lives with his mom and dad and 4 siblings. His father is sometimes employed, and his mother maintains the home. Kevin helps out with cleaning at home. He is in kindergarten where his performance is average. He loves playing with cars, and he regularly participates in church activities. Kevin's birthday is July 17, 2007. If you have an interest in sponsoring Kevin, please let me know!
Before I finish with my Bolivia posts, I have to share with
you about 2 beautiful little girls who stole my heart in Bolivia- Cecilia and
Let me start with 5 year old Cecilia.
I met Cecilia in
Cochabamba at the Child Survival Program. When we arrived at the program, all
the babies and toddlers from the CSP and the children from the adjoining CDSP
were lined up waving little Cochabamba flags for us. As I walked down the line
shaking hands, I saw this tiny little girl in a Hannah Montana shirt staring up
at me with the biggest brown eyes. I immediately fell in love! I took her
picture and continued up to the program the CSP had planned for us. Through the
whole program, I kept staring at her photo, and I told Madeline who was sitting
by me, “I want that child.” When we came back downstairs after the program, I saw
my little girl again, and the minute she saw me she came running over. I put my
arms out and she jumped into my arms and wrapped her arms around my neck and
held on tight. She told me her name was Cecilia and that she was 5 years old. She
played with my hair and told me it was beautiful. She just kept holding on to me and didn’t let
go. She didn’t even know me. She had never seen me before today, but here she
was loving me unconditionally. I don’t know why, but maybe just maybe God had
this all planned out. I held her all
morning, even when it felt like my arm was going to fall off. A number of
people said I could just put her down and hold her hand, but I didn’t want to
leave that day wishing I had held her just a little bit longer. When we sat
down for lunch she sat in my lap and shared my meal with me. I tried to give
her my uncooked vegetables, but she would have none of that. Cecilia was
beautiful, and I was completely in love with this sweet girl!
I went up to Becca- our tour leader- before we left that
day, and asked if I could find out if Cecilia needed a sponsor. She knowingly
smiled, and said she had already asked. Cecilia is not part of the program, but
her mom and baby sibling is part of the CSP. We found out that if I agreed to
sponsor Cecilia than they would register her! I didn’t even have to think about
it, I would do anything to have that little girl in my life. Hopefully she will
be registered soon so that Cecilia can be added to my account and I can start
writing her letters!
Next I want to introduce you to Luci.
She is around 6 or 7
years old. I met Luciella in Santa Cruz at BO383. I didn’t see her right away
like I did with Cecilia. Instead of going on the home visit with our family
group in the afternoon, Madeline and I had stayed back to play with the
kiddos.We pulled some bubbles and we
were instantly surrounded by excited children. We had decided to just blow the
bubbles for them and not let them touch the wand because we didn’t want to
spread germs, but after some begging and pleading I finally gave in and let me
take turns blowing bubbles. Suddenly this adorable little girl- who ended up
being my Luci- started hacking up a lung, and I thought, you are why we weren’t
going to let you guys take turns. I tried to tell her in my limited Spanish to
cover her mouth, but she just grinned at me. I couldn’t help but grin back. We finally
finished with the bubbles and went to find a place to sit down. We were
followed closely by a group of girls, including my little cougher. She ended up
sitting on my lap and telling me that her name was Luciella. She was so funny
and content with life. I contemplated finding out if she needed a sponsor, but I
held back, deciding to just take in our time together. The rest of the groups
came back from their home visit and we had a sing along with the center
workers. Luci was so cute as she belted out to the Spanish version of “Open the
Eyes of my Heart, Lord.” Even after everyone else had finished singing, we sat
their softly singing “Abre mis Ojos, Oh Cristo” together. I was falling in love
with this little girl as well, but I still wasn’t sure about sponsorship.
Madeline, had met a little boy named Junior that she wanted
to sponsor, so we had Becca found out if he needed a sponsor. She asked a
project worker and I heard her reply that yes, Junior needs a sponsor, but so
does Luciella. My ears perked up, and I immediately agreed to sponsor Luci too.
I was so excited to have another precious Bolivian girl in my family. Neither
Luci nor Junior are actually registered in the program yet, but they are
working on it as we speak! The center workers were excited that we wanted to be
their sponsors so that they could be registered!
Bolivia is such an amazing country with beautiful, giving
people, and I cannot wait until the day I get to return there. I never expected
to come home with 2 more children, but that just makes it all the more fun! I love
these little girls, and it is so neat that I actually got to meet them and bond
with them and now sponsor them! And I got to see their soon to be centers and
meet their project workers. Cool, huh? I’m praying that everything goes
smoothly for both Cecilia and Luciella to be registered in the program and
added to my account!
Now I am going to step back and tell you about our day at BO588 in Cochabamba. Since I don’t have any pictures of this day, I “stole” some from some of the other people on the trip. I don’t think they will mind, they did post them on Facebook.
Friday, April 6th, was our day to spend at a child center in Cochabamba. Part of the group was meeting their kids who lived in or near Cochabamba while the rest of us went to BO588 for the day. This was such a fun center to be at for the day! When we arrived there was a huge line of children, from the little ones right up to the teenagers excited and waiting for us to arrive! Many of them had signs and banners of welcome for us as we walked down the line waving and shaking those little brown hands. As we got closer to the center, we were showered with white confetti. I was excited because today, I had brought my lollipops to pass out. I did this on one of my mission’s trips to Ecuador and it made me very popular with the children so I had high hopes. When I got to the end of the line, I pulled out the lollipops as all the children were now coming following us towards the center, and I was quickly surrounded by little people all wanting a sucker. What I didn’t expect was all the mothers that got in line for lollipops too. It was sweet how excited they were, but I guess grownups do like lollipops too!
Like all the other centers we went to, this center was also excited to put on a program for us. There was singing and miming and a group of children dressed in the native outfits of each of the 9 states in Bolivia. They were absolutely adorable, let me tell you! Some of the church members also sang in Quechua and played some of the traditional instruments. It was pretty amazing! The center workers were so sweet in that they had all the sponsors come up to the front and they gave us gifts. Everyone is just so giving in Bolivia!
After the program, we split up again to visit classrooms. It seemed like my group always had the translator that wasn’t quite sure where we were supposed to be which made it all the more fun because we got to visit more than one classroom! This was the case today as we wandered through 2 of the younger classrooms before being told that our class was patiently waiting for us! We started out with the little kids as they were being taught a story about a little lamb who didn’t listen to her mom and the consequences that came with that.In the 8 and 9 year old room they were learning about how to prevent getting sick and especially about the importance of hand washing. We finally made our way to the classroom we were supposed to be in which was the 15 to 17 year olds. They were such a fun classroom! I was the youngest one in my group and they were quite thrilled to have someone close to their age to hang out with. A sweet girl named Lidia tried to give me her seat, but I told her we could share the seat. I sat down with her and she put her arm right around me and we had a great conversation. She said that her favorite class is Psychology so I got to tell her that I studied Psychology in college. The students asked of each of us what we did for a living, and when I said that I work with kids they said I should work with them. They have no idea how much I would LOVE to! All the students were eager to share their dreams for the future, and one of them, 17 year old Nelly (she is the girl in all red in the top photo), shared how she had been accepted into the Leadership Development Program. It was so awesome to hear. Then, they wanted us to sing an English song for them. Oh boy, none of us were singers and we tried everything to get out of it, but they were quite insistent. We ended up singing “Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelujah, Praise Ye the Lord” in parts by splitting the room in half and having them stand up for their part. It was hilarious and we were all laughing by the end of it. Most teens in the US wouldn’t have just let loose like that, but these teens were having so much fun. I just LOVED hanging out with them!
Lidia and I
Armindo, Christian, and I
In the afternoon, we went on another home visit. This visit was so much more encouraging than the last one we went to. The house was a bit bigger, but there was also 14 family members living in it. The specific family that we visited was Lidia, her husband, 6 year old Karla, 3 year old Abdiel, and little Carlos. This family was very much intact and involved in the church. Karla had recently gotten a sponsor and was excited that she had gotten a number of letters so far! It was heart breaking to hear Lidia tell about how sometimes Abdiel cries because he hasn’t gotten a sponsor yet, but my family group leaders, Jim and Donna, are now his sponsors!! Abdiel was so full of life and talkative and I know that he will be joy for them to sponsor!
This was another one of those centers that you just did not want to leave when it was time! So much love and so many hugs that I could have stayed there forever!
I want to take a quick break from posting about Bolivia, to share with you a new photo that I got of 7 year old Sargo in Bangladesh! He looks so sweet yet sad in his highwater pants. I love his little haircut!
Sargo hasn't changed a huge amount, but he does look a little taller and healthier. Love him!
One of the awesome things about our time in Bolivia was being able to spend Easter there! When I signed up for the trip, I didn’t even realize that we would be there for Easter. It was such a neat experience to celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection with the Bolivian people knowing that we worship the same God! Knowing that Jesus died for each and every one of us. We celebrated Easter at a church in Santa Cruz that is connected to center 384. The church was packed when we got there and there were many people standing outside looking through the windows so they could be part of the service as well. Many of the children who go to the center showed up to welcome us to their church and center. The church service was filled with joyful singing, a sermon on the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and a couple poems and songs done by the children. It was a morning enjoyed by all!
After the service we stayed at the church to celebrate National Children’s Day with the kiddos from the center. It was such a fun time just hanging out with the kids, families, and church members. We sang songs, danced, and played games together. There was a little program with a couple clowns which was quite hilarious even though I didn’t understand a word of what they were saying, and the center teachers dressed up in the native attire from each of the 9 states of Bolivia. That was really interesting to see! Our group had stuffed some plastic eggs with candy and we planned on having an Easter egg hunt for the children, but there were around 200 children there and we didn’t have nearly enough eggs for all of them! Instead we passed out 1 egg for all the children under the age of 10. I wish we had had more eggs so they could have experienced a true Easter egg hunt, but I think they enjoyed it anyway!
I couldn’t write about our day with the kids of BO384 without introducing you to 8 year old Bania. Isn’t she beautiful?! See that smile on her face. Well that is the smile she gave me when I asked her if she had a sponsor and she said yes! Her face just lit up to tell me about her sponsor and she whispered his name in my ear- Jake. I admit that for a passing moment, I was hoping that she would say no so that I could sponsor her, but I know it is for the best. I wish that Jake could see how much sweet Bania loves him! It is amazing how our children love us without even knowing us. They love us exactly how we love them- instantly and unconditionally. Bania and her friend were so sweet. I didn’t have a chair during part of the program so I was kneeling on the ground beside them. I saw them whispering to each other and then they jumped out of the chair they were sharing and made me sit in it. Not wanting them to sit on the ground either I ended up with 2 cuties in my lap. Bania was just an encouragement to me to keep loving my beautiful kids because they truly love us back!
I’m skipping ahead to our first center in Santa Cruz, as I don’t have pictures of the center we visited in Cochabamba. I let my roommate borrow my camera for the day as she was meeting her sponsored child, so I’m waiting on people to send me pictures of that day. When I get them in I will post right away. But for now- Santa Cruz!
We flew into Santa Cruz on Friday night to spend the rest of our time there. Santa Cruz is very different from La Paz and Cochabamba. It is much more tropical with 90 degree weather and sunshine and no mountains in the background. The humidity was sky high and you couldn’t step outside without becoming drenched in sweat. It was beautiful just like the rest of Bolivia!
On Saturday, the sponsors who have children in Santa Cruz eagerly waited in the hotel lobby for their children to arrive, while the rest of us prepared to spend a fun day with the kids at center 383. When we arrived at the center the children were waiting for us so they could put on a special program for us. They were so excited to have us there, just as we were excited to be there!
After the program, we broke up into our family groups to visit classrooms. My group started out in the 8 and 9 year old room while they were doing sword drills- racing to be the first one to find a certain Bible verse. I always loved sword drills as a child so it was fun to see these kids having fun doing the same thing. When we were finished in the 8 and 9 year old room, we wandered our way through the rest of the project visiting the computer lab, the 3-5 year old room, and a couple of us even got to help serve soup to the 6 and 7 year olds. It was awesome having the chance to serve the kids in a tangible way.
After lunch, 3 of the groups went on home visits while the other 2 stayed back to make cheese bread as gifts for the families visited. My group went on a home visit, but me and another girl in my group, Madeline, stayed back to play with the kiddos until it was time to leave. We played soccer with some of the boys for a while and then we pulled out some bubbles. They loved bubbles! They loved it when we would blow them into their face and they would try to pop them. This was probably some of the most fun I had during the trip. Just watching the children play with such joy and abandon! When it was time to leave one of our little friends started crying because she didn’t want us to leave. It broke my heart and of course Madeline and I started crying too. Those beautiful Bolivian children just loved having some extra attention and love for the day and we were so happy to give it to them as they gave us all their love in return!
I was really excited about going to the Child Survival Program because I love babies and I wanted to learn more about how the CSP helps both the mothers and the babies. I knew it would be a day full of adorableness! When we got there, we were greeted by a line of mothers, babies, and also children from the attached center- BO591. Each mother was holding a little flag with one of our names on it in welcome.
The director of the CSP had a little program for us telling us more about the program and their vision and dreams for expanding the program to help more mothers and babies. They had a couple 2 year olds- Jerald and Ruth- sing songs that they had learned for us. Ruth had no problem doing that, but Jerald was shy until he saw that Ruth was singing. Cutest thing ever! After the program, the mothers had set up some stations to show us what they had learned and what their children had learned through being a part of the CSP. Some of the mothers gave us samples of bread that they had learned to make and they showed us some clothing they had sewn. Some of the little kids showed off how they had learned their shapes and colors. We also got to see one of the classrooms they have for the CSP. I’m sure that there was more to see and learn at the CSP, but I admit I was a bit distracted playing with some of the little ones!
After having lunch with the mothers, each family group went on a home visit with one of the mother’s and their child. My group went the home of 41 year old Elvira and 3 year old Raul. This was probably the most heartbreaking home visit I went on. Elvira has 8 children, 2 of which are married, and Raul is her youngest. She has to walk 2 hours, one way, to arrive at the project each week. Elvira works in construction as her husband is has diabetes and cannot work. The hardest part was hearing about the state of Elvira and her husband, Isaac’s marriage. It is pretty much in shambles. Elvira is afraid to sleep with her husband for fear of catching diabetes from him. Isaac spoke of leaving the family and finding a mining job in another city. Elvira is really the only one who takes care of the children. Isaac told us about how he goes to church, but Elvira will not go with him and such, and later Elvira whispered to us ladies that her husband is a liar. The CSP worker made it sound as if Isaac can be a violent man. It was horrifying to see. Only God can save this family and marriage.
We did get the chance to see the CSP worker in action as she taught Raul a story about Jesus and had him draw some pictures to work on his motor skills. She says that she goes to the home once a month (I think) and stays for about 2 hours. She says that she spends a very short time working with the child, and the rest of the time working with the mother on different areas of parenting and helping them with areas they need help in. We were able to make a fruit salad for the family before we left, which was good because it doesn’t sound like they ever have enough food for the family. You hear stories about this type of thing, but it doesn’t really sink in until you actually see it with your own eyes. Until you sit there in that dark, oppressive little house, and try to hold back tears as you see the hopelessness written all over the faces of people who just want to survive today.