Issue - May 2009



May 2009

Editorial

In this issue Christina Moore interviewed the manager of Th'uruch'apitas library; an invitation for CEBID of a National Photography Competition; with mother's day fast approaching, Rachel Dakin writes about Heroinas; a Legacy; Jess Gardner tell us about Proyecto Horizonte in Uspha Uspha; Walter Sanchez with Women Dressed to Enter into History; and finally our Cultural Agenda.read more...

May 2009

One community at a time with Proyecto Horizonte

Their vision was to improve the quality of living for the children.

Jess Gardner
Australia

At the southern-most fringe of Cochabamba lies the thriving community of Mineros San Juan, Uspha Uspha. The community is complete with public transport, electricity, shops and water soon to be installed. Not too long ago, none of this existed.

At the heart of this community are two schools, Centro Inicial and Colegio Educativa San Vicente de Paul, which have come about due to the hard work of Proyecto Horizonte – Uspha Uspha, a non-governmental organisation that has been working within the community.

“The first vision of Proyecto Horizonte was to give security and health to the children of the community,” says Osvaldo Castro, local administrator of the project.

“When we arrived in 2002 … there were 150 families,” explains Mr Castro. In the beginning, a basic health service was set up, as well as a kindergarten for 35 students. “Now there are 1500 families.” The project has needed to grow rapidly to keep up with the community.

Proyecto Horizonte now ensures the education of more than 600 children. Centro Inicial caters for children aged only a couple of months, up to 5 years old. This is no simple “guardería”. Even the youngest are learning to shout out the sounds of the vowels with clarity and confidence.

The Colegio was opened at the beginning of 2008 and is responsible for the education for children aged 6 – 14 years old.

Children from Mineros San Juan attend school at a cost to their parents of approximately one Boliviano per day. In my country, you cannot purchase an apple, let alone feed, educate and care for a child, for this amount.

Education in Mineros San Juan does not stop with the children. The foundation runs an evening school for adults at the Colegio. At the end of 2008, seven young adults graduated from the Bachelor program, giving them the qualifications they require to enter university. The program is accessible even for persons who are illiterate as the teaching method is adapted to best suit the prior knowledge of the participants.

Further plans for the Colegio, also include construction of a modern technical college.

“I think (the technical college) is so important,” says Nicola Pauli, Director of Planning and Communication, “If you give people skills at this level, for example electrician or carpenter, they for sure are going to have work their whole life.”

Involving the community in all aspects of the project, is paramount to the success of the work. Ms. Pauli is quick to praise the role of the community in its own development.

“They are very well-organised. The (parents) committee of school at the moment is collaborating with us to get the teachers’ salaries paid by the government. It´s very important to have their support.”

In addition to providing schooling, the project has placed itself as vital to the health of the community.

In the grounds of Centro Inicial, the once simple health service has grown into a modern Medical Centre employing a team of seven professionals. “There’s free medical attention for the poorest of the families in the community that really can’t pay,” says Mr. Castro. As well as providing affordable health care, the Centre provides free daily breakfasts to the poorest in the community.

Where resources allow, Proyecto Horizonte is gradually extending their reach to other communities. The dental team regularly visits other schools, holding demonstrations and giving consultations. The doctors and nurses make weekly visits to the nearby, less privileged community of Alto Miraflores. Basic medicines and vaccinations are provided here free of charge.


In the future Proyecto Horizonte may be able to spread to these communities also. “The idea for Proyecto Horizonte is to be selfsustainable, leave the administration to the community and copy the model in other communities,” says Mr. Castro.

The challenge then, is to ensure sustainable development. One way to do this is to employ locally. “We can´t do it with all the positions we have, because there are not that many people here with a university education. But with all the human resources we have, we contract here from locals,” says Ms. Pauli. “They identify themselves as part of making this project bigger and better.”

An especially innovative idea to ensure future sustainability is to empower the women in the community. The women´s group Tantakuna provides a supportive place for women to meet, learn new skills, participate in self-development programs and independently earn income. “I´ve really enjoyed listening to what the women have to say in Tantakuna. They can (have a space to) talk about lots of things in their lives,” says Estelle Dessouroux, a volunteer from Luxembourg, who has spent the past month working with the group.

“If the women learn something or earn something, they always put it directly into their families. They don´t use it for themselves generally,” explains Ms. Pauli.


As Mineros San Juan grows, so too does the project. “I can imagine that Mineros San Juan in five years time might be a real hub for the surrounding communities, such that they´ll have total education catered for right through to technical colleges and pre-university courses. I would imagine Mineros San Juan would be the place to be,” says Michael Clay, a volunteer from Australia.

The initial vision of Proyecto Horizonte was to improve the quality of life for the children of Mineros San Juan. The progress towards this objective is already evident as Ms. Pauli discusses a hypothetical child´s future.

“With Proyecto Horizonte, when they finish school, they perhaps already have an occupation. They have a really good education with a reputation on a local basis. They can go to university if they want, without problems. Without (the project), they wouldn´t finish school and probably at the age of 18 be on the streets taking drugs. Before we started working hard here, before the school especially, there were a high number of street children coming from Mineros San Juan. Now there´s almost no children that are going to the streets from here.”

Cultural Corner

Many researchers have emphasized the subordinate role of the
women of Cochabamba to the men. This fact was more than
evident during the nineteenth century, the society was based on moral,
economic, religious, political and patriarchal values (Hispanic and
Andean) (See: Cocha-banner No. 35). The daily actions of women
were subjected to rigorous control. This dependent condition shows
women as victims and their active role is invisible in the construction
of history and in the process of change, as much on a local as
national level. If we reverse this view and assume that native women
“Indian”, “Cholas”, “Chotas”, “birlochas”,
“vircholas”, elite women, etc. were dynamic
people, it is possible that a different perspective
comes to the surface of our understanding.
Illustrating a role that is not passive; their
differential power, their identities and their
impact on the construction of the future.

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