As we begin the International Year of Youth, Berta, a 19-year-old Bolivian in her first year at university, describes how she found her way to a better future with support from her community and ChildFund’s after-school programs that focus on math, language, self-expression, reading, writing and computer technology. Because the Bolivian education system lacks many core components, most children miss out on important basic learning and skill-development classes. –Reported by Monica Planas, ChildFund Americas Regional Communications Manager
My name is Berta. I came to the ChildFund Avance Comunitario Community Center near La Paz when I was four. I have siblings who are also enrolled.
I was very shy and quiet, I used to sit in a corner and never participate. Growing up I discovered I wanted more, so I signed up for leadership and self-esteem courses at the ChildFund community center. They’ve helped me out so much that now I’m a totally different person. I’m open-minded. It has contributed to lots of things especially at school. Last year I ran for president of the student council and won.
Many recognized my hard work and I was able to form my own group. Because I’ve been good at what I do, I’m now working at the community center and helping younger children. I like being here because it’s fun. You have the opportunity to participate in workshops. We also receive human rights speeches. You’re able to make new friends.
I’m now studying at university and participating in the university student council as well. I have this capacity because ChildFund and the staff at Avance Comunitario offered me the opportunity to take these trainings.
Everyone at the community center has supported me in one way or another; now it’s my opportunity to guide and help the new generation.
by Monica Planas, Regional Communications Manager, Americas
Who will win? Will it be Netherlands…will it be Spain? We have no crystal ball, but what we can tell you is that ChildFund Bolivia has soccer champions of its own!
For 46 years, the Niño Quirquincho Feliz Project in Bolivia has been helping children age 6 and older develop their soccer skills while also helping them reach their hopes and dreams.
Nationally recognized for preparing outstanding athletes, the Niño Quirquincho Feliz Project has won numerous championships along the years and supported kids with trainings, techniques and team-building activities.
Having a safe place to play and develop skills has become even more critical today. Because many families in Bolivia have extreme difficulty accessing basic necessities, ChildFund Bolivia works to strategically identify areas where deprived, excluded and vulnerable children live. Our goal is to create centers to support children and put them on a healthy pathway.
Older children in Bolivia often face the hard reality of staying at home with their young siblings while both parents go to work. Because this situation poses risks to children, ChildFund Bolivia works hard to identify these youth and enroll them in ChildFund programs so that they may have the opportunity to develop their leadership skills and become role models for other children and youth.
ChildFund offers healthy child development monitoring, after-school guidance sessions to support students of all ages with their homework, creative individual and group activities and health/security campaigns.
The Niño Quirquincho Feliz Project helps not only children and youth but also their families. Mothers receive training on early childhood development and nutrition to help guide them through the process of bringing up a healthy child.
Niño Quirquincho Feliz Project has one doctor, a dentist and a small staff of teachers and coaches. Together, they help hundreds of children stay off the streets and away from bad influences. The center has fun spaces to encourage children to develop their creativity, improve their skills and offers soccer lovers the opportunity to practice, practice, practice!
Who knows? The next World Cup champion may be a child helped by your support.
ChildFund Bolivia’s National Director Wendy McFarren offers insights into this South American country where ChildFund has provided services to children in need since 1980. Through her video blog, Wendy describes Bolivia’s indigenous identity and the children who live in crisis situations on a daily basis.
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.
In the first week or so of this series, we’ve given you a lot of words about where we work. Today, we’re going to take a visual break. Two years ago, ChildFund’s Documentation Officer Nicole Duciaume visited Bolivia and returned with fabulous photos.
“There is little substitute for seeing an area firsthand and speaking directly with the program participants; personal consultations are what sustain our commitment to the organization, the communities and the children,” Nicole wrote while on that trip.
Enjoy the view!
For more information about Bolivia, a country ChildFund has worked in since 1980, click here.
More on Bolivia
Population: 9.7 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: About 78,000 children and families
Did You Know?: According to National Geographic, Bolivia made the world’s first debt-for-nature swap in 1987. Working with a conservation organization, Bolivia was able to reduce a portion of its foreign debt in exchange for guaranteeing protection of the Beni Biosphere Reserve.
Next in our “31 in 31” series, we get another toy story as we visit Sri Lanka.