When I arrived in La Paz the tour police helped me straight away. They wait for international people at the bus stop and record wherever they go or whatever cab they get in. This is so that if anyone gets kidnapped, they will sooner or later find out, and perhaps can trace a missing person more easily later. They helped me call Martha and Luis, who host volunteers from Creative Corners.
Creative Corners is an organisation in London, which is run by a woman (Monique) who is originally from Sydney Australia. Creative Corners helps to get people set up with volunteer programs in many places throughout Latin America including Bolivia. I didn´t realise however, how much great activity was going on here, and how many of the human rights projects are linked to each other.
Arnaud, a young male from England, is also staying with Martha and Luis He volunteers at a project called Helping Hands, and was set up with this project via Creative Corners. Bethany from England was also set up in a program by Creative Corners, and is living in the house too. She was put into a program known as Amigos Del Hogar. Their breakfast, nice accommodation, insurance and Spanish lessons are all included in the cost of their stay through Creative Corners. (Only about 600 pounds for 2 months).
I really like the family and Arnaud and Bethany a lot. Tonight we were all making animal sounds in different languages and laughing our heads off while chewing on cookies that Martha made. It was just so great last night to get some uninterrupted sleep in a very comfortable bed!!
Arnaud put me in touch with Joanna Smith, a volunteer co-coordinator who works for an organisation called Para Los Niños. I went to visit Joanna and talk with her about her work this morning.
It was difficult to go and meet her though, as traffic was so bad due to a march by angry Bolivians outside the American Embassy. This all happened abut 5 blocks from me whilst I was interviewing Joanna… even tear gas was thrown. Joanna informed me somewhat on the political situation here, but I am going to get more information from a few Bolivian journalists over the next few days, so that what I write is correct.
Joanna is an amazing person who seems to do a ridiculous amount of work very happily. She is so kind and willing to put me in touch with many other interesting volunteers. Co-coordinator of State children’s´ homes for over 4 years, she tells me about the sorts of projects that she helps run.
Joanna works to help babies and young kids, mentally disabled children and adults, and girls and boys who have been in conflict with the law. She also helps girls who have been trafficked or have fallen into prostitution. She mentions that many of the girls have been tricked into sex slavery by people who pretend that they will give the girl a well paid job as a waitress or model for example.
The Bolivian government pays for the basic necessities of the programs needs including water and electricity, and government staff including psychologists, carers and social workers. But Para Los Niños struggles when it comes to paying for important needs such as education materials and medical medicines and emergencies. Even a window that broke over 2 months ago, that the head of social services said that the government would pay for, is still not fixed.
Helping Hands, where Arnaud is placed and Joanna helps to bring volunteers to, is a place where 14-18 year old adolescent males who haven’t finished school, have no money, have been thrown out of home, or all of the above. This program helps the men get jobs, perhaps after their obligatory military service.
I visited Amigos Del Hogar this afternoon with Joanna. We also went with Bethany, who arrived a couple of days ago and has just been placed in this program. This is an artistic program running for a home for children called Hogar Jose Soria. It is for children aged 5-14 years, who have been abused, abandoned or lost. There are some adoptions from this home, mostly by Italian people. Very few children are adopted by Bolivian families.
There was a meeting held for volunteers that I went to in the evening, and they were all discussing a fete day for the children that is being held this Monday. They were deciding on what games and activities there would be for the kids, and what materials they are going to need. All of the volunteers were friendly and welcoming, and they all seemed very excited about the children’s fete day.
A woman named Dianna founded Amigos del Hogar, and also runs a school for the deaf, and a handicraft workshop for Bolivian women.
If you want to volunteer at, or offer support to Para Los Niños either email pln(at)megalink.com or visit www.boliviapln.org
If you would like to volunteer here or at another creative volunteer project, and want everything set up nice and easy for you, including accommodation and insurance, please visit www.creative-corners.com
Para Los Ninos