The women of Bolivia are brave. Strong.
I had a feeling this might be the case upon arrival. The land is dry, arid and at a high elevation. It's rugged, and not much grows in the soil here beyond potatoes, onions, carrots and a few peppers in the warmer areas of the country. It's not a nutrient-rich area of the country, which contributes to the deep-seeded problems of malnutrition in children.
On our first day in the field here in Bolivia, we visited and Area Development Program (ADP) called Tiraque. This particular World Vision community has been around for 13 years.
During our time out, a group of us visited a Nutritional Recovery Program, where women in the Tiraque community come with their youngest children (babies up to five years old) to learn about procuring proper nutrition for their families. While the women learn different cooking techniques and information regarding food & its nutritional value, the small children attend a pre-school, taught by Victoria. Victoria is 20 years old, attending high school herself, taking care of her own daughter, and teaching these children three days a week. She is a remarkably gifted and inspirational teacher. And let's get honest: any woman who can command a room of over 20 three-year-olds deserves high praise and affirmation.
In the dry dirt and grass outside of the classroom, we sat in a circle with the women and they were eager to tell us their stories, to tell us what their lives looked like during the long motherhood days.
Some walk to make sure their younger kids get to school. They walk again to this community World Vision center to learn about nutrition while their little ones learn how to read and write in a (fully sponsor-funded) preschool.
We asked them how long it took them to walk from their respective homes to this center. Some said 30 minutes, others said an hour, some said almost two hours. Another woman, wearing a white sweater, piped up and said if she didn't have to get the kids to walk with her, it would take her fifteen minutes.
We all laughed - Bolivian and American, we all understood the universal language of parenting.
Everything takes longer with the kids in tow.
These women are so strong. They withstand the absence of their husbands, who often leave their wives and children indefinitely in search for work with more pay. Sometimes, their husbands move as far as Europe and the only signs of life are rare checks that come in the mail, if they arrive at all.
Many of these women survive physical abuse at the hands of their husbands.
They live on an income of $450 dollars a year.
Despite the conditions in which they have found themselves, these women are resilient and their hearts never stop beating the strong language of love for their children. And the help and support that they have found together, along with the preschool, has been made possible by World Vision's child sponsorships.
The most wildly beautiful and redeeming thing about World Vision is that the entire community benefits. All of these women have their children registered in the WV program; some have been sponsored, some have not. But it doesn't matter. Once they are registered, their children are not turned away and they are never denied the basic help and assistance that they need, regardless of a lack of sponsorship. And once their children are registered in the local ADP, the parents are able to benefit from programs like this nutritional recovery center and preschool. It's a holistic & sustainable vision.
But it all starts with the children.
Everything revolves around the basic needs of the children.
And the presence of World Vision and this center has provided these mothers with something beyond practical skills and knowledge: A close community of other mothers who understand the daily struggles and victories of motherhood.
Child sponsorships and the meaningful partnerships with the local municipalities ensure that these programs become available and long-lasting for generations of children and mothers. They cannot continue without your help and support.
Please know that if you sponsor a child, you're not only ensuring that the child receives a proper education, healthcare, nutritious food and clean water to drink, you're helping to ensure that their mothers know how to keep them healthy, and that their younger brothers and sisters are prepared for entering grade school.
Child sponsorship helps the whole child through helping the whole family, and it transforms whole communities in a sustainable and empowering way.
Will you consider sponsoring a Bolivian child today?