Bolivia: Meeting our sponsored child and her family

By Caroline, Bolivia Child Sponsor

Towards the end of 2014, my husband Cedric and I decided we’d investigate the possibility of a trip to South America. Since the start of my career as a teacher of Science and Biology I’d been captivated by the reports of Charles Darwin’s voyage in the Southern Hemisphere and especially his discoveries on the Galapagos Islands, 1000 km off the coast of Ecuador.

We put together a six-week itinerary incorporating these places and much more. In the back of my mind was the possibility that we might be able to visit Marianela, a child from a community in the outskirts of La Paz Bolivia, whom we’d been sponsoring with World Vision for about three years. I contacted World Vision and after a period of phone calls, emails and the necessary paperwork, the visit was organised for us.

When we arrived in Bolivia, Jaqueline and Gian Carla of the World Vision San Antonio project picked us up at our hotel. We drove on shocking roads to a supermarket and guided by the staff, we bought a trolley full of groceries for Marianela’s family.

On arrival at the World Vision headquarters we were greeted by Marianela, her mother Ana Rosa, and about 12 World Vision staff. It was very exciting and quite emotional. We sat down to a huge breakfast prepared by Ana Rosa and the staff - their generosity was greatly appreciated.

There were lovely speeches of welcome and appreciation from Marianela and Ana Rosa and each staff member introduced themselves and explained their roles in the organisation. A very unexpected and lovely surprise occurred when Marianela presented us with personalised coffee mugs and hand-written thank you cards. She in turn loved the small photo album we had prepared for her with pictures of our family and some Australian sights.

Gian Carla and Jaqueline drove us to Marianela’s community where we met her six-year-old brother Hugo and her grandparents. We presented some gifts and the groceries we had bought that morning to the family. We had a drink and chatted for about an hour, assisted by Jaqueline’s skills in translation as our Spanish was extremely limited! The family was very gracious and hospitable and expressed their thanks many times for our help.

A sponsor visit is obviously a very important occasion for World Vision staff, although the pleasure in meeting them and finding out about the wonderful work they are doing was all ours! We farewelled Marianela and Ana Rosa as it was time for Marianela to go to school - she attends the second shift from 12.30pm to 4.30 pm in the local high school.



Seeing the difference that our Sponsorship was making

We learnt that through child sponsorship, World Vision run a special after-school facility for kids in need of some extra help. As well as receiving assistance with their schoolwork, they participate in dance, drama and art. The children we met were beautifully dressed in traditional clothes and entertained us with dancing, a puppet show and a short dramatic piece. They were very charming.

We headed back to the World Vision headquarters to meet the Youth Group. Each member of this very smart and passionate group of young adults explained their role and how they have been helped by their involvement in the group. Many said that they had gained new skills, increased confidence and an ability to express themselves. They talked about how they had been educated about combatting domestic violence in their community. Several of them are actively involved with staff in assisting with the work of World Vision in their area.

We were driven back to our hotel in the centre of La Paz. Driving in this city is quite hair-raising but we arrived back safely thus ending a truly memorable day.

This day was such an eye opener. It’s hard to imagine how difficult life is for so many families in this sprawling and crowded city, yet they seem to manage. Our commitment to them through child sponsorship is minimal in our terms, but to the community it is hugely important.

Now that we’ve returned, we’ll maintain communication with Marianela and this community and do all we can to promote the wonderful work World Vision are doing in helping them to become self-sufficient.

Very special thanks to Manuela, the Sponsor Visits coordinator with World Vision Australia and the staff of the San Antonio project in Bolivia for making our visit possible.