In the final Bolivia blog, World Vision worker Chris Weeks hears about the challenge of connecting remote communities.
The 4×4 is stuck again. We’ve got out to push but the wheels are churning up earth, forcing the vehicle deeper into the rutted ground.
So I follow the lead of my World Vision colleagues: shrug, grab our equipment, and continue on foot.
Later, I’m astonished to see that local World Vision office we left over an hour ago is just across the valley. This bone-jarring, epic journey has brought us such a short distance.
Modern-day tough guys
That’s the problem around here. It feels like the place isn’t suitable for human habitation because of the terrain and climate. But the people I meet – men and women, boys and girls – have adapted to their surroundings and are modern-day tough guys.
A very old man hands me a sack he’s been carrying for miles on his back so we can load it on the pickup truck. I can hardly lift it.
At a children’s playground (built with World Vision support) youngsters clamber over equipment in ways I’ve never seen before, perform acrobatic stunts, then run at lightning speed beside our truck to wave goodbye.
Above the radar
As we drive back to the World Vision office, bumping down a dried-up riverbed and swerving to avoid rocks, there’s a crackly radio report about a roadblock between Oruro and La Paz – a route I will need to take to the airport. Hundreds of pensioners are holding a protest march.
The demonstration doesn’t seem to mean much to people here. It feels like some families in these mountains are – almost literally – above the news radar.
Hard to reach
As you travel between these communities, you meet people who are trying to do quite normal things. But this is an extraordinary place and there are obstacles everywhere.
In my short time here I’ve seen how World Vision has helped children get nutritious food for the first time; provided expertise to set up crop irrigation; helped establish llama farms; and supported children’s education.
I’ve also met a group of confident teenagers who, through a World Vision programme, know how to lobby for change. And we’ve helped scores of children get birth certificates. Without these, qualifications will not be valid and access to services may not be possible.
When scrutinising World Vision’s work, it’s clear that in Bolivia we spend an awful lot of time and resources just travelling to remote places to carry out these tasks – a challenge we don’t shirk.
I looked on Google Earth before arriving and could see only uninhabited mountains. It looks like that from the main road too. You have to get up close and start walking where the vehicles can’t reach before you eventually see that people live here.
No tourist would ever visit, yet World Vision is connecting people thousands of miles away through child sponsorship.
There’s nothing more incongruous than sitting in a mud house in the Bolivian mountains being shown letters from a sponsor in Kent. These connections not only mean so much to children here; they are the key to making real change possible.
Chris Weeks is a communications officer at World Vision UK