Issue - January 2009

January 2009


In this edition: Minato Kobori interviews Makoto Shishido, a member of Los Kjarkas; Barbara Walter wanted to know how and where the Don Bosco mission work began in Bolivia; finally Walter Sanchez brings us chronicals of the beginning of photography and the most representative photographers in more...

January 2009

Because the children are our future

The father of the order of Don Bosco dedicate their lives to helping children in need, in Cochabamba and all around the world

Barbara Walter
Projects Abroad - Volunteer
Sankt Augustin - Germany


A village in the African Bush, some huts made of clay and a church, the last village which has electricity before there is nothing more than red dust and poverty.

It is three o’clock in the afternoon when suddenly the silence of the village is broken by shouts of the village’s children: “Obolo, Obolo”. A white track is driving down the road, stopping in the centre of the village. The children continue shouting and fight to get to the truck as close as possible. Then “Obolo” steps out and suddenly it is quiet again. He goes to the back of the truck and takes out the treasures the children have been waiting for: little wooden cars, balls, stilts and if the children are lucky pens and paper. A moment later the children and the toys are gone. They are shouting happily and are having the best time of the day. Some of them hang on to Obolo and make him play with them. Obolo is originally from Germany and has decided to dedicate his life to the children and has become a monk of the Don Bosco order many years ago. “Obolo” means “big man” according to his stature. Everyone in the village knows the order of Don Bosco. They bring hope to people who have to worry about s rviving every day. They try to organize schooling for the children, help families with individual problems and hold mass at the church. But overall they give love and care to the children and try to give them a bit back a bit of their lost childhood. The love and devotion the priests and monks of Don Bosco showed towards the children in Ghana fascinated me on my volunteering trip. Therefore, I wanted to know how and where they work in Bolivia.

The “Holy Order of the Holy Franz of Sales” was founded by Giovanni Bosco in 1862 which was confirmed by the pope in 1874. Don Bosco himself was born in 1815 in Turin, Italy where he soon experienced not only the poverty of his own family but also of many others who came to the city looking for work because of the Industrial Revolution. Don Bosco became a priest of the Catholic Church in 1841 and decided to do something for the young people who nobody cared for. He invited them into his house, taught them, prayed and sang with them but also played with them. Don Bosco was a rather unconventional priest who knew card games and it is said that he was an extraordinarily strong man. In 1846 his foundation of the first “Oratorium” came close to a revolution. It was the first time children of the working class started getting access to education. Don Bosco was criticized by many for doing this but stuck to his idea.

The “Oratorium” is today the heart of the Don Bosco order and its work. It stands for the idea of Don Bosco. Children need education but they also need love, care and a place to be themselves. Therefore, the “Oratorium” is a place to learn but also to play.

Today the order of Don Bosco is the third biggest order of the Catholic Church with 18,000 members who work in 120 different countries. Their mission is to help young people to find a way out of their poverty and give them the chance for a better future.

The first two Salesians came to Bolivia in 1896 and founded the “colegio de Don Bosco” in Sucre and La Paz. Today there are about seventy different institutions of the Don Bosco order in Bolivia, including kindergartens, primary schools, high schools and job education centers.

While the focus of work of the Salesians in the city of Cochabamba is on education in Sucre and especially in El Alto the focus is on street work. A German priest founded the project “Movida Boliviana” in El Alto where about 30,000 children have to work instead of going to school. The street workers are out on the street night and day and try to give the children food and first aid. The next step is a place to sleep for the children. The order runs a house where the children can stay during the night if they play along some rules such as being sober and cleaning their sleeping place the next day.

The work with street children is really hard as they have never learned to live according to rules or have a certain routine. They do not know how to live in a community but only how to fight for their own survival. Most of them use drugs such as alcohol, drugs or glue. Therefore, the sleeping place and its rules are an important step into a normal life. If the children have done well, they can move into “the Casa of Don Bosco” where they can live and also get education. To educate the children is one of the most important goals of the work of the order. Education is the chance for a better life as it opens up many possibilities. If the children are doing really well, they might even get a scholarship for the university.

As the order does not have the financial means and the capacity to offer every child a home they have set up a self- responsibility system for the children who have to work as shoe cleaners in the street of La Paz. They encourage the children to save their money in order to fulfill their own dreams like having a bike or going to school. The fathers of Don Bosco have established accounts for about one hundred children by now. The children are showing great trust towards the fathers by giving them their money as many of them have experienced that their parents take their money and spend it on drugs or alcohol. If the children have saved 40 Bs, they will get a whole shoe cleaning box and after this the fathers help them to invest their money wisely.

To get a better picture of the work of the order in Don Bosco I interviewed the principal of the “Colegio de Don Bosco” en Cochabamba, Javier Ortíz. He himself is a Salesian father and has worked at the school for more than three years.

Cochabanner: “When was this college founded and how many students do you have?”

Javier Ortíz: The school was officially opened in 1964. The school is divided into a private school in the morning and a public school in the afternoon. In the morning, we have about 1100 students and about 1200 students in the afternoon. Every class has about 40 students. We offer classes from kindergarten to high school but from grade seven on we only take boys.”

CB: “What are the costs per term and do you offer scholar ships?”

JV: “The costs for the private school are 460 Bs per month. The public school is free as the state pays for the wages of the teachers. If a family has three children in the school, they do not have to pay for one child automatically. About 10 percent of all our students have scholarships. Many children come from a difficult family background and live only with a single mother as their father has left to work for instance in the states. If an accident or anything similar happens, we try our best to help the families and pay for the fee of the students.”

CB: Is it mandatory to be catholic to be accepted at the school? What role does religion play in the daily school life?

JV:No, it is not mandatory. But we offer preparation classes for baptism, the first communion and confirmation on Sundays. We have many students who take advantage of this offer but we also have students of other denominations as we want to support tolerance towards other religion. There is a mass in the morning and in the afternoon as well. Additionally, it is mandatory to take religion as a class where the children learn not only about the catholic religion but also about other denominations.

CB: An important part of the concept of Don Bosco was the “Oratorium”, a place to learn and play. Do you have an “Oratorium” at this school?

JV: Yes, we do. On the weekends not only our students but all the children of the district around us can come, play and can also take part in the preparation courses to receive the holy sacraments.

CB: There might be many children especially in the afternoon who have a difficult family situation. What do you do to helpthem?

JV: It is true, in the afternoon many children have to cope with difficulties at home. Just this afternoon we have a father of the Salesians coming in to talk to the families about their problems and to try to find solutions. We also really try to involve the parents in school activities; they are an important part of the education process of their children.

CB: Do you help your students also after they have graduated?

JV: We have established a University of Don Bosco in Cochabamba, too. We advisce our students who have financial difficulties to go there as it costs 200$ per semester and is a lot cheaper than other private universities.

The order of Don Bosco has various institutions in the countryside of Cochabamba. Once a year the students have to go to a centre for street children. They take clothes, toys and food with them and are assigned to a child they spend the day with.

Students who graduate from the Colegio of Don Bosco are asked to go on a one week trip to the village Torotoro, north of Potosí. Before this trip their parents visit the village to see what is needed the most. Then the students follow and take things with them like paint or varnish to help the people of Torotoro to build new things.

This helps our students to see that they are lucky to have parents who can afford to pay for their education and as well they can go to school at all and do not have to work.

At the moment there are only three Salesian fathers, including Javier Ortíz, working at the school. He wished they had the financial means and the capacity to take more students as every year they have to refuse many students.

CB: “Why did you chose to dedicate your life to the children and became a father of the Salesians?

JV: The best way to fulfill God’s will is to help people who are in need. Furthermore, I think that education is essential for a good future of our children and our country. I want to do my best to form new responsible Bolivian citizens.

The people are the real wealth of our country so if we want to change something, we have to influence the people. The joy of the children I experience every day is like a gift for me and is worth every effort

Javier Ortíz was another example of a man who has dedicated his life to children in need and works for them with all his heart. His job is hard and stressful and he does not have much free time but when he talks about his work he sounds really motivated, determined and happy. The Salesians are doing many good things in a world that needs every bit of help to improve. And they also show that real help requires more than money, to help people it needs real devotion and love.

Photographers and photographs
in Bolivia

Es escasa la información que tenemos sobre los primeros fotógrafos en Bolivia. Los pocos rastros permiten ubicarlos ya en las principales ciudades y villas de Bolivia a fines de la década de 1850. Durante la década de 1870 muchos fotógrafos comienzan a publicitarse. Así, el Almana que de EL COMERCIO de la ciudad de La Paz para el año 1879 editado por Claudio Pinilla y publicado en 1878, en la Imprenta de “El Ciudadano”, destaca en sus páginas anuncios publicitarios de importantes fotógrafos. Uno de ellos señala:

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