by Nicole Duciaume
ChildFund Regional Sponsorship Coordinator
Americas Regional Office
This is my third time in Bolivia over the past five years working for ChildFund. As I sat in the Santa Cruz airport for five hours awaiting my connecting flight to Cochabamba, I reflected on my previous visits.
I had worked for ChildFund for about six months and was asked to accompany a study tour to Bolivia in the fall of 2005. About 15 sponsors and a few members of the international staff spent about a week and a half visiting programs and exploring the country: La Paz, Cochabamba and a side trip to Lake Titicaca. I was honored to act as a translator for a couple from Tampa on the day they met their current and previously sponsored children.
I returned to Bolivia in spring 2007 as part of a small delegation to assess the program viability of entering a new area of Bolivia called El Alto on the outskirts of La Paz. Assessment involved several community consultations and long meetings about program design, funding flows and sponsorship projections. I learned about the benefits and challenges of opening a new program area.
This year I returned to Bolivia to participate in the annual sponsorship training seminar. Among the many discussions aimed at aligning national operations with our global strategy, one of the priority themes was how to encourage the active voice, participation, creativity and self-expression of children and youth in our sponsorship activities and through letter writing.
It’s often hard for children in a culture that has more emphasis on oral traditions rather than the written word to express themselves in a letter to people they’ve never met. It was exciting to hear the various ideas and commitments from the staff from around Bolivia to improve this process for children.
Though the meetings were productive for analyzing priorities and deliverables, one of the best days included a visit to Proyecto Obispo Anaya, one of ChildFund’s local affiliates near Cochabamba.
I value the opportunity to get out into the communities and meet the children, families and staff. It puts everything else into perspective. During our brief visit, we learned about a recent campaign launched to “vaccinate” parents and community leaders against mistreating children. Great concept!
We met some children who recently participated in the community’s annual talent competition that encourages song, dance, self-expression and sharing of children’s opinions. They invited us to join them in a youth leaders’ drama production about nature.
We saw information booklets, flags and maps created to help children learn about their sponsors’ home countries. Throughout the day, we were reminded vividly of why we do what we do and who we partner with to achieve great things for children in Obispo Anaya, in Cochabamba, in Bolivia and beyond.