I’ve just returned from Bolivia where I’ve been working with sponsored children in some incredibly isolated and hard to reach places.
After driving for hours on a rocky dusty road and then trekking down a mountainside, we reached a school hidden deep in the valley, a modest two room mud brick building with a Bolivian flag flying on a mast in the yard. The flag had a gaping hole where the wind ripped through it. This was typical of the communities I visited during my trip.
Working with the kids was a lot of fun, the purpose of my trip was to help children to tell their own stories in their own words, helping them to develop their voices and story writing skills. We played circle time games to encourage talking and sharing thoughts and feelings. We then broke down into smaller groups of ‘talk partners and a scribe’ to help them write stories about their lives and their experiences.
I think the children’s stories will give you the best picture of what it is like to grow up in these harsh but beautiful surroundings.
“In my community there is many mountains very big. I like the trees, the pines are very big. Once, I went up to a pine I was playing with my friends and very happy. Another day, we went to the river with my friends, Marcos, Ruben, we took a bath it was very much warming. The water was hot. I still don’t know to swim and I will learn.
I like to walk sometimes I like to run with my friends. Also I like riding bicycle because it goes faster I can feel wind and I so feel happy. One day I would like to have a bicycle to play in my community and I would lend it to my little brothers.” Alex, 13yrs
Bolivia is a stunning but difficult country. 48% of children there live in extreme poverty, not surprising when you see the environment they try to scratch a living from. Growing food here is very difficult, which means malnutrition is a big issue. The following child’s story highlights some of the more difficult aspects of living in these isolated communities.
“In my community it’s too much hot and also cold. When it rains the river grows and there is a lot of water and we cannot cross to the front side. When it rains I just stay home and I cannot get to the other community. We get diseases and cold temperatures bad smells in our community.
I like spring because there are many flowers and a lot of fruit and vegetables, there is more to eat and to take a bath in the river with the warm water. Also in spring I like to play soccer and some like to play on the green grass. Because of rains more, corn, beans, alfa it grows more, to feed the cow and also grass to feed the sheeps and the goats.”
Writing was a really big challenge for virtually all the children I encountered. Put a pen in a child’s hand and ask them to write and you will receive a blank expression and a blank piece of paper. Ask them to draw and no one struggles, creating something immediately. It was evident the Bolivian children I worked with are rich in artistic expression and ‘visual language’ and less so in oral and written communication. However, as you can read, they wrote some really great pieces using the Storytellers Map and Cards. The tool along with time and patience will foster some great storytellers, for sure.
“My favourite song is; “Wachi Wachi Turito” because its very pretty, happy I dance with it, these are the words of the song:
“Catch the bull with the rope
Little bull from the mountain
Catch the bull with the rope
Over there you go little bull
Over the plants go jumping”
I listen this song at school, I learnt this song in Candelaria. My teacher Heidi Pinaya Bellido taught me this song when I was fourth grade this year.” Sergio, 11yrs
I hope this has helped to give you a glimpse into what life is like for children in Bolivia, and for those of you who sponsor a child there I hope this will help you to understand them and their environment a little better.
If you’d like to see some more photos of my trip you can take a look at the World Vision Facebook page. If you’ve got any questions for me then please just post them below and I’ll get back to you.
If you’ve been inspired by this blog you may also like to consider sponsoring a child in Bolivia.
Steve Richards is a Children’s Communications Specialist with World Vision UK. His work seeks to give the children we work with the skills and confidence to write and speak for themselves in their own words. He has just returned from conducting story writing workshops in Bolivia.