Issue - July 2008

July 2008

In this month's issue Hanna Redknap interview a volunteer teaching Children rights at school as well she visited Inti Wara Yassi Community; Perry King put in the picture Eva Biard's work at Ciudadela SEDEGES; finally Walter Sánchez with Family more...

July 2008

A Woman’s Work: The work of one woman and the Ciudadela SEDEGES Orphanage

Our reporter spent the day at an orphanage that, over the span of mere months, has been infused with more promise than ever

Perry King
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Toronto - Canda

It is the responsibility of every child care facility to make the most of their resources and provide a chance and opportunity for every child that relies on its services. Located along Avenida Blanco Galindo, Ciudadela SEDEGES is no different. But when one gets to the nuts and bolts of how this child care got to where it is today, one can say they have been quite lucky. But very thankful.

“It’s learning skills, it’s developing social behaviour, it’s expressing themselves in different ways,” says Eva Biard as she describes what the project “Escuelita de la Bienvenida” essentially tries to provide. One of the students, 5-year old student Samuel proposed this name. It means ´Everybody is welcome´ in Spanish.

“Our goal is that the children have an educational atmosphere from 8:30 in the morning until 1 o’clock. Because the situation was for the children who don’t go to school for many reasons... we provide them with a [forum] where they have stimulation [,that is] educational stimulation.”

The daily operations are very organized here. Structured activity and communal relations are arranged by age group and slotted by days of the week. With twenty-five children ranging from the ages of 10 to 11 months and 12 and thirteen years old, who come from different backgrounds and come to Sedeges for many different reasons, there is no doubt that caring for the children is an everyday-all-the-time challenge for all the support staff, teachers and Projects Abroad volunteers.

The child care centre had been operating under different names over the span of many years and was sometimes lacking in support for its children. “I know volunteers who had worked here years ago and [Ciudadela SEDEGES] had another name and that they made a lot of structural changes, says Biard. “I have spoken with two volunteers who had said that it had improved a lot since they were there.”

As it occurred, Biard’s role with Ciudadela SEDEGES eventually began to stretch further than merely as a volunteer. However, it certainly started that way.

Biard, a schoolteacher in her native Germany, was a former Projects Abroad volunteer who had volunteered at the orphanage, initially for a six month stint which began in September of 2007. She began her placement with another Projects Abroad volunteer, Franziska Baus, who has recently ended her stint. During her stay and once she was finished, a much more emotional connection began to stir feelings of concern.

“It was like an emergency, says Biard. “I was working there for about 3 months and everything was passing fine. And I had gone on vacation and came back. There was a lack of personnel for more than three months and the conditions for the children and the staff was very difficult.” With conditions unsanitary and emotional, Biard, with the help of former volunteers, including Baus and Michaela Maucher, started coordinating multiple efforts to raise money and help the orphanage fulfill some basic needs. Although Biard’s stint with Projects Abroad was complete, she and Baus remained with the child care facility to provide support.

“One day the director pledged that I could have a house for the project, says Biard. “We had started our project in a more formal setting (not proper for the children) so we did not have a house really so this was a good day and we started a confidential cooperation with SEDEGES”

Formerly a medical volunteer, Maucher, now back in Germany, assisted Biard in the orphanage and was able to raise some money upon her return to Germany.

As for Biard, her website became a conduit for support, a voice that the child-care centre desperately needed. “The situation was very difficult and I would write about this on my website,” says Biard. “And I never asked for money but mostly teachers would begin to do projects with their students to raise money.” Luck is certainly the word some would describe for this case. Efforts calculated to about 3000 to 3500 Euros and the influx continues to occur.

“I had no idea how successful it was going to be. I never made a construction of this project, but it was just happening.” Biard credits much of the great things that have occurred on luck, but a combination of things have occurred to make things happen. She was able to meet many different people, getting support from Projects-Abroad and create close relationships with people in Germany and Bolivia. For example, Biard had met a pianist named Teresa Laredo from Cochabamba who had a knack for helping in the community. These relationships and Biard’s website quietly became very important to how the orphanage was gaining support.

Biard and Ciudadela SEDEGES, with the support of Projects Abroad, is now able to provide contracts to a doctor and a teacher so they can be compensated for work done in the newly painted and renovated house of the “Escuelita de la Bienvenida”. It has also been painted and renovated.

With hope, Biard’s efforts to infuse Ciudadela SEDEGES with vibrancy will not be in vain. She hopes volunteers and many organizations, including Projects Abroad, can continue to contribute. But the reality of the matter is that one never knows what is going to happen. Problems that may be apparent are very manageable by the staff. Overall, however, there has never been more optimism about the orphanage than there is this very day.

Inti Wara Yassi Community Parque Machia - Villa Tunari

When visiting Villa Tunari everyone will tell you to visit Parque Machia, a sanctuary for monkeys, birds, pumas and many other wild animals. It is situated in beautiful surroundings and many of the monkeys are quite tame and have no problems climbing up your legs or sitting on your lap...

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