Sucre Orphanage - very brief bit of volunteer work

Monday, January 16, 2012
Sucre, Bolivia
Sucre day 1

What to do in our 2 full days here in Sucre ... a hike, quadbiking or ????

We all decided to undertake a morning 3 hour city tour. With Noel, started off at the main square or May 25 Square. fronting the square was the closed main cathedral. Sucre has 22 churches but while 98% pf the population are Catholics, attendance is so low that many churches including the cathedral are closed.

Next to this was the Perfectura Departmental building.

The University founded in 1624 is by the main square and with 30,000 students in a city with a population of 300,000, it is like Dunedin, a young people university town. Sucre has very little industry and relies on the fertile mainly pesticide free agricultural land around it for the abundant fruit and vegetables that we saw later in the central market.

Useless information time:
Sucre is like Rome built around 7 hills.

80% of the Bolivian population earn US$100 per month.
15% earn US$250 - 300 and the remainder are rich.

A 2 bedroom apartment in town costs US$50,000 and you can buy land on the outside of Sucre for US$1 - US$4 per square metre. Noel our city tour guide brought his section overlooking the city for US$3,000 just a few years ago.

I can see why people like this weather friendly clean open city. With the city planners restricting that buildings in the centre of town must be painted white when being restored it will certainly retain a special character. Two apartment tower blocks blot the cityscape and yes you guess it, are owned by the rich with no doubt influence over the decision makers.

A short walk to the textile museum ....

... then it was back to the Recoleta Mirador or view point where we went to last night ...

Out of the city to see behind locked gates Bolivia's only castle: Castillo de la Glorieta (1893). This Italian style has 3 towers each a different style. It was right next to an army barrack where young boys (16 years) were queuing by the foot bridge with their suitcase and parents / relatives farewelling them as where entering to do what I suppose is an induction course that may enable them to have career in the military. All male Bolivians need to undertake one year of compulsory training.

Next to the castle was an ugly looking and out of character convention centre being built.

Plaza Libertad (Liberty Square) with the Santa Barbara church and hospital of the same name and restored Mariscal Theatre.

Next block was the Justice Supreme Council and then a little bit of Paris - so the city planners had hoped to create.

Bolivar Park was a mini Avenue des Champs-Élysées with even a mini Arc de Triomphe at one end of the Champs-Élysées.

Our final destination was the central market or Mercado Central.

Useless information - Bolivia has over 300 different types of potatoes.

Noel introduced us all to a tumbo juice made with milk. Very refreshing.

The long flat banana looking item is in fact a green pacay sweet fruit with large seeds.

On our way back to the May 25 Square and our Hotel Independencia we passed the San Monica plaza and church.

The Hotel Independencia was a gracious 3 story large building with two internal couryards to sit and relax in. Very, very nice after La Paz's windowless accomodation!

Lunch at the Damasco confiteria restaurant was another typical Bolivian meal. Lomo a la chorrellana meaning beef, tomato, onion, French fries. In other words or chips and steak and egg (Bol 40). A platano with helado was a banana smoothie (Bol 10).

Nela, the activity agency that we were working with, volunteers with a local orphanage. She invited us to go at no cost and see it which we all accepted.

First in the afternoon we went back to the central market and with our monetary donations brought the ingredients to make what end up like a small round scone for the children plus other items like clothing and plastic cups for the children use.

Hogar “tata juan de dios” kayoa washy.

For some images look up:

The Sisters of St. Anthony of Padua Congregation have added 44 children to their family. The sisters run the orphanage and care for the city’s abandoned youth, some of whom had been living on the streets of the second poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Ranging in age from newborn to 6 years old, some were born into desperate poverty and abandoned. Most suffer from a complicated physical or mental illness for which there is no opportunity for adequate care. “Sometimes they don’t know how to walk or talk,” commented Nirka Escalante Malne, a Catholic physical therapist for the facility.

I nor anyone else didn’t take any photos here. Didn’t feel the right thing to do. It was for all of us a moving experience in that I saw a 13 year old caring for her new born baby; the babies in their walkers and our interaction with the older children out in their play ground. NZ's OSH will have a field day with the tiled ground.

This time here left me with so many unanswered questions like if no one adopts them, what happens? At least for now they are in a safe loving and caring environment but this is not how children should be raised.

A Spanish couple, after 3 years going through formalities, was at the orphanage about to finally adopt a child.

Time here was too short and without any preparation ones input was so limited. With a language barrier, felt like a "visitor" instead of being able to have spent some quality time here. My time as a youth worker working with an older age group was oh far too long ago for me to adapt to this situation.

Then there was Marivel who only 3 month ago “adopted” by Nela from a life on the streets. I thought that she was Nela's daughter. Such an outgoing “go for it” girl who will certainly succeed in life with Nela guidance. Nela is also caring or providing support for Marivel older 16 year old but pregnant sister.

Mmmmm ….

Before dinner we went back to the Joy Ride Café where we had our first Sucre meal to watch for Bol 15 or NZ $3 the “The Devil's Miner” film. This reflects what life is like. I suspect it is still current. Sad but reality where the average miner’s life is 34 - 40 through dust clogging their lungs silicosis. The closing credit had - 800 children still works in the mine and will probably be there for the rest of their life. Over 8 million miners have died. If you join all their bones together it will reach Spain and back like a bridge.

The film followed the life of a 14 year boy ands his younger 12 year brother who father had died when he was 2 and he is now the primary bread winner for his family: mother, younger brother and sister plus he desires to get an education. They lived in this one bedroom small rock hut up at the mine.

The Devil's Miner is a 2005 documentary film directed by independent film directors Kief Davidson and Richard Ladkani. The film follows a fourteen year old Bolivian boy named Basilio Vargas who along with his twelve year old brother Bernardino work in the mines near the city of Potosí. The film includes many subtle realities of the miner's lives such as the need to chew coca leaves to numb the pain of hunger and the long shifts they work regardless of age. The film made its world premier at the Rotterdam film festival and its U.S. debut at the Tribeca Film Festival.

The film concentrates on the concerns of local workers who have fear of what they call “Tio” or devil. The film claims that over 8 million people over a period of time have died in the unsafe mines. The workers believe this is because “Tio” controls the mine and that Christ has no power in the mine. The workers often give offerings and perform sacrifices to a makeshift statue of "Tio". The local Catholic priest is unable to tame these fears of “Tio” although the workers often pray at the church before entering the mine. Wikipedia

Follow up ... from another web site:

We spoke to Kief Davidson in April 2006 to see what effect THE DEVIL’S MINER has had in the two years since filming concluded, and how the Vargas family has been faring since.

“We continue promoting aid organizations dedicated to sustainable solutions and eradicating poverty in Bolivia. In the summer of 2005, Kindernothilfe (KNH), a German aid organization that’s assisting the children of Potosí, hosted a screening in Bolivia for politicians and a group of child miners—including Basilio and his brother—who were able to see the film for the first time.

“Basilio, Bernaldino and Vanessa are in school full time and not working in the mines. We initially helped them out with education costs before organizing support from Kindernothilfe. KNH helped the Vargas family relocate off the mountain and open a shop to sell kitchen utensils as an alternative income source.

“As for Basilio, he has learned how to use the Internet and we correspond regularly via e-mail and chat programs. A follow-up video of Basilio and Bernardino will be available on the upcoming DVD for THE DEVIL’S MINER, which will be found on our Web site.”

Yes ….. it was a moving film.

Dinner that night was at Café Restaurant Florin where with Alberto's guidance, I continued to try more local dishes. Picante de pollo = typical Bolivian plate with chicken in a sauce with asi (dried Bolivian peppers), potatoes, rice and chuno futi (little dried potatoes). As I was back on a stronger medication Supracamlf with Meloxicam 150 gm for my shoulder and neck pains I am on a alcohol free for 5 days so it was a submarino or hot chocolate with a twist. I was given a cup of hot milk and what looks like a little round ice block on a stick but was dark chocolate on a stick and one stirs it in the hot milk to make your own hot chocolate.

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