Published: October 29th 2005October 27th 2005
Just after our welcoming at Challoma.
We left Puno on the bus at 7.30am on a journey which took us along the edges of Lake Titicaca before turning inland a little and going through some fields sprinkled with snow. Only a couple of hours into the journey we had a relatively easy border crossing into Bolivia and then had a two hour break in Copacabana for lunch. It is only when you drive along side the lake for a few hours and there is still more that you realise just how big Lake Titicaca is, pretty impressive for the highest lake in the world!
After lunch we continued our journey towards La Paz along a winding road until we came to a point where we had to get off the bus and into a little boat to cross part of Lake Titicaca. As we were loading into the little boat our bus was being driven onto a barge and taken across the lake. Strange to see trucks and busses going across the lake on these very basic looking barge things. I wonder how many vehicles have met their end at the bottom of the lake here!
We contiued on our journey to La Paz and
Singing and Dancing
Two very emabrassed girls doing there best accompanied on guitar by the head boy and amigo!
two hours later than we expected we arrived at the top of the Altiplano overlooking La Paz. It is a pretty impressive sight at first, from the Altiplano, La Paz sits 400m below you at an altitude of 3660m completely filling the canyon below and sprawling up to sides. The town is surrounded by mountains the highest of which is the 6402m snowcapped peak of Illimani.
We stepped off the bus and straight away noticed a difference to Peru, no touts, no hassle and very helpful curious people as we had previously experienced in parts of Venezuela.
Arriving 2 hours later than expected we got in a taxi straight to the World Vision office to finalise the arrangements to see Aydi, our sponsored child, we made all the arrangements and world vision even went to the trouble of checking out hotels for us.
The next day we caught a public bus to Oruro with our Guide Viven, and stayed in The Sami Wassi Hotel, probably the nicest hotel we´ve stayed in so far and suprisingly cheap. The following morning we were picked up at 8.30am in a four wheel drive and set off on a 3 hour
drive along what can only be described as a dirt track. After passing a few mines we were faced with what seemed like endless mountains with the only sign of life the odd shepherd and his stock.
We were met in Bolivar (the community supported by world vision) at the world vision office with a large sign ´Bienvenidos MR A Kelly´after a quick bite to eat and the obligatory cup of coca tea, it was then off to our first visit, a small village called Challoma where we were to be welcomed at the school. As we were leaving the office I noticed pens of hundreds of ducks in the back yard of the office. When asked about these, we were shown the ducks and told that they had been bred by another World Vision programme in Cochabamba and they being aclimatised as the town is at 3500m above sea level. The ducks were to be given to the residents of the Bolivar community, the families had already built their pens and they were to be given 10 ducks each.
On the way one of the World Vision Officials wanted to show us the agricultural work they were
doing with the communities. We stopped on the edge of a field and were soon surrounded by a group of locals looking curiously at us and after a 3 way translation and introduction from Quechua to Spanish to English, we were told how the fields were rotated 1 year potatoes, 2 years cereals and 1 year pulses to replace the nitrogen and 1 year of grazing. They were also given advise on the strongest seeds along with work on irrigation.
It was then off to the school where we were met by the local band consisting pan pipes, drums and some unidentifiable woodwind instruments, along with what seemed like the whole village stood around applauding our arrival. The school children were lined up as to create a little tunnel for us to walk down as then pelted us with confetti and gave us flowers and placed a garland around our necks.
We were then given a programme for the school visit this consisted of several speeches from world vision representatives and the leaders of the community, each in either Spanish or Quechua so the translation prolonged the speeches. As the speeches progressed we relised that we had been
sent there for a reason, as today was the completion of the potable water supply to the village.
The community of Challoma which included sixty families, of which 120 of the inhabitants are children and the school, were to have their potable water supply switched on by us! The village until now had not had a potable water supply and many of the local children suffered from bacterial or parasitic water bourne infections. Each of the Families now thanks to World Visions and the hard work of the community have their own stand pipe of potable water in their yard.
So after speeches and some singing and dancing by the children we were taken up to the main water supply (dancing along the way), where we smashed a bottle of local cola over the tank and said some prayers blessing the water and an impromptu speech from Sue the water was switched on. After which we were taken (dancing again) to the stand pipes in the school grounds which had been dressed up for a naming ceremony. Sue was given the honour of naming the pipe dressed as a male, to which it was named "Andy" after a
Sue at the naming of "Andy the Stand Pipe"
quick tune from the band and more dancing we were taken to the second pipe dressed as a woman where I was to name it "Mary" (After Suzanne Mary Kelly and the virgin Mary as they were quite religious). We were then given some food by the village elder, which we had to bag up and take home as it is offensive to leave food which you have been given. I also asked to see the classrooms to which the teachers seemed very pleased.
There are two classrooms with 3 years worth of children in then all taught by the same teacher, electricity was supplied by a car battery and a small solar panel, but the only electrical goods there were a couple of flourescent light strips and a ghetto blaster! We were told that teachers in Bolivia after qualifying have to do two years compulsary work in a rural area before they can move on to city schools. We were then cheered and clapped and with lots of hand shaking left the school to head back to the World Vision office in Bolivar for a quick rest and another bite to each, this time we were allowed to
leave food on our plate.
It was now time to go to meet Aydi, where her family had been waiting as we were running 2 hours late. It was a short walk to Aydi´s house where we were greeted again by more confetti throwing and had more garlands placed round our necks that the girls had made at school for us. Aydi has 3 sisters all older and they live with their mum in a one roomed house, which is furnished with a double bunk bed, fridge, gas cooker, TV and a small dining table. They had a potable water stand pipe in the yard but no bathroom or toilet with water.
After our greetings we gave the girls their presents we had bought them - pencil cases full of stationary and text books for the older girls and paints and colouring crayons for Aydi, we also gave her mum some sun cream as the children in Bolivia get quite serious sun burn on their cheeks along with a jumbo size pot of nivia cream. They all seemed very happy with there gifts until Sue pulled out her last minute gift for Aydi we had bought in La
Paz a cuddly bear, to which we sensed there might be a bit of fighting over this including Aydi´s mum. However, the girls seemed to know how to share so I'm sure they'll work it out. We were then presented with our third lunch of the day that Aydi´s mum had prepared for us consisting of a variety of potatoes with a chilli salsa, and boiled eggs. Aydi's mum´s main income source is from selling bread to the other villagers but there are quite a few other ladies so competion is fierce.
After initially being shy and seeming a little confused by these funny talking strangers Aydi eventually found her voice and became quite playful dancing, trying to eat the teddy bear and throwing the remaining confetti over everyone and the teddy. She seemed a really cute child but suddenly shattered that innoccent child image by spitting on her sister, to which she recieved lightly slapped legs by her mum.
Christina, Aydi´s mum was very pleased we had visited and wanted to know when we would return. I think the oldest sister felt a little left out as she had been sponsored for 7 years and never been
visited, and Aydi who has been sponsored for only one year has had her sponsor visit!
After further small talk about life in Bolivar and showing them where we came from on a map it was time to head back to the World Vision office where again we were met by more leaders of the community and the local teacher of Bolivar, who played the guitar and sang for us. After another quick cup of coca tea it was time to head off back to Oruro. Just before we left we were met by the Bolivar community representative who told us that the work work vision was doing was excellent, however the programme only covered 40 of the 80 communities that made up the Bolivar area, he said that his aim was to try and work with world vision to implement programmes in the remaining communities not currently sponsored.
Looking back on our visit and what we had seen of the work World Vision does along side the community, we definitley feel that a difference is being made to peoples lives here, allowing children and adults access to education, health care accessable drinking water, while still maintaining there
way of life and allowing them to progress to self sufficiently.
There are more photos below