Issue - May 2007



May 2007
Editorial

In this Issue, an interview with Ana Cecilia Moreno, how she wanted to break the image of elite dance. Caroline Amouyal met with Anysongo.

Read about the history of Los Tiempos our local newspaper in Cochabamba. Andean Traditions, always present in our lives...read more...

May 2007

Lending a Helping Hand:

The Rise of Free Hands

Free Hands was founded by Suzanne Windsor in 1999 when she decided to become a missionary in Bolivia. While aiming to help children from the streets, she visited the women’s prison of San Sebastian, discovering the talents of their handcraft skills. With their creativity, the items are used to be sold to the public and the profits generated are donated straight to the women themselves and their children.

By Lamin Kamara
Volunteer Projects Abroad
Essex ,England

Free Hands is a Christian based organization that helps women from San Sebastian prison with their handcraft skills and sells them to the general public.

Drug smuggling is one of the most frequent crimes committed among the women in a desperate attempt to earn up to $50 and support their family. Louisa (a worker at Free Hands) had deep emotions of guilt and remorse as she spent 5 years in the prison. Before living in there, Louisa had no money to feed her children and felt she had no other choice. Since her release, Louisa has befriended Suzanne and has remained in contact with some of the people from the prison, who as well wish for a better life. Thanks to Free Hands, Louisa has used her painting skills to decorate statuettes and music boxes etc, and has developed a skill in sewing and designs in second hand clothing to sell for the company and has not found it necessary to think about committing anything illegal to earn money for her family.

While incarcerated the children live with their mothers in the prison, as there is usually no husband or any male role model present to take care of them. The husbands usually abandon their family as a result of debts owed to them, thus also sending the women to jail as they are unable repay the debts owed. Leanne who currently works for Free Hands was sent to San Sebastian after her husband had abandoned her, when their shop was closed down and debt was owed. After six months Leanne was released in condition of paying $50 a month, but without any money or a house,. that was deemed impossible.

Fortunately, as her father was a tailor, she had knowledge of sewing and design and has used it for the organization. The aim of the organization is to help the women and their children, as well as regain their sense of self worth and dignity. It also teaches the women the value of hard work, rather than begging to earn a living. They have the opportunity to learn new skills such as decorating, designing and cooking to provide the cakes, scones and pancakes for the café area. The younger generation are currently being helped to enroll in various courses such as, business administration, accountancy and sewing courses to improve their academic skills, so with their extra knowledge they can help other people in similar situations.

For the children there are plenty of activities for them to participate in while their mothers are working. If they are not attending school, they have the opportunity to play football, create some artwork, play computer games or watch DVD´s.

Dedicated volunteers often help to entertain the children and keep them occupied. The main objective is to keep them from begging on the streets to help support their family and to concentrate on them receiving a better start in life.

There are a wide range of good quality items in Free Hands that would appeal to people of all ages and sex. Wallets, greeting cards, tablecloths, music boxes, handbags are just some of the products that are available. Though the money generated from the products are donated to the women, unfortunately the profits are usually not enough to help the families out of debt and poverty as Bolivia are faced with plenty of economic problems, so is there more we could do to help?

As for Suzanne herself, I admire her courage, determination and faith as she has built up the foundation that she created with very little help from outside. Though still in its early stages, I for one believe this will be a good cause that will expand and will benefit with plenty of profits to help them for the future. The Free Hands Café and Bolivian gift shop is open from Monday-Friday 9-6pm and Saturdays 9-12.30pm, on Calle Santibañez No. 0186, where you will be able to eat, drink, view the talents of these women and be greeted with a smile, so please show your support and go check out the good quality items. Just look our for the heart sign!

You can also check the website on www.freehandsbolivia.org. If you are in the UK there is also a telephone number you can call 01225 312241. For other countries call +591(4)4244736 or for the workshop +591(4)4588449.

Portrait: ANA CECILIA MORENO
It is a space of fusion between art and sport, as shown by its name: Ar stands for arte and de stands for deporte. We created it in collaboration with gymnasts, because we all needed a place to practice our different activities. We are all very proud of this place, because we built it up almost all by ourselves (we even installed the light and the electricity alone!)...
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