“Live so that when…children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you.” ~H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
The Saturday morning started off grey, rainy and cold. Despite the dreary weather, dozens of children began arriving, eagerly running to their favorite volunteers for the hugs they knew were awaiting them. Mothers of all ages appeared with babies in tow. As the number of families increased, the sun began to shine.
This once-a-month, unhurried day at the park, called “A Banquet for the Families”, is a special day for everyone involved. The children run and play. The delighted volunteers are grasped by the hand, led up slides and through monkey bars. Mothers, whose weeks are usually filled with challenges of survival, can now sit for the day, paint their nails, enjoy the warm sun and watch their children laugh. They make lunch together and share stories about their children.
And, as the day progresses, individual concerns and needs become known:
- A family worries about how to provide school supplies for their children.
- A grandmother discusses a serious infection that a doctor may have ignored.
- A mother murmurs about a child’s self-destructive behavior.
- Another mentions a struggle with substance abuse.
- Others express their fears of safety within the home.
And the list goes on…
Conversations and trust develop over these Saturdays. Relationships become genuine friendships. HOPE worldwide volunteers provide listening ears, smiles, words of comfort, and an unhurried presence. They hear when so often no one listens. They connect resources with needs; they connect families with professionals who can provide specific services. They follow up, because these families matter. They show up…with birthday cakes, school supplies, love and hugs…because these families are cherished friends.
“Coming together is a beginning;
keeping together is progress;
working together is success.”
December is always a wonderfully full month for HOPE worldwide Bolivia!
Throughout each year, HOPE volunteers lovingly and faithfully build genuine relationships with children and families who are living in extreme poverty in order to provide hope, opportunities, and encouragement to help them overcome the many challenges they face. As the year comes to an end, everyone looks forward to celebrating a year of hard work and encouraging friendships together! In early December HOPE hosted its monthly Family Park Day for vulnerable families living throughout the La Paz area. (We’ll share more details about this wonderful monthly event in our next blog!)
On Friday afternoon, December 16th, HOPE hosted our annual Christmas celebration to support the 120 families within Apoyo Social Familiar, a program of Fundación Arco Iris (FAI). Volunteers from HOPE and the American Calvert School worked together to provide an afternoon filled with love, hugs, and laughter. More than 500 family members (including 400+ children) gathered together within the Casa de Paso building of FAI for games, food, and special gifts for each family and child. The Guild Against Poverty (GAP) student club within the Calvert school collected and donated high quality new blankets and water basins for each family.
Other community members gave generous quantities of víveres to fill each basin.
HOPE worldwide Bolivia is extremely grateful for the privilege of working together with the generous and compassionate people within our community of La Paz. There is no greater joy than treasuring the holiday season together with all of the many wonderful families within La Paz.
Here in Bolivia, we’re very grateful for what we learn and what we can teach to others. One of the most effective ways to elevate this Bolivia’s quality of life is to equip the next generation of healthcare providers with knowledge and best practices.
Today we enjoyed a presentation by Dr. Don Ellis: Duke Pediatric Emergency Medicine. This is Dr. Ellis’ second teaching visit to Bolivia. (He’s the gentleman on the back left with the great beard.)
Don and I are working to develop a permanent rotation of interested faculty, residents and students from Duke Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine who want to join us in Bolivia to educate and train.
Today’s teaching topic was splinting:
The “unfortunate” victim with both of his arms splinted is Don Esry, who came to volunteer and serve. Don is from Jacksonville, Florida. I have known Don for 34 years (just a few short years ago), we were both a part of the campus ministry at Florida State University.
Don, who has never traveled overseas, took a leap of faith and got a passport, visa, and immunizations so that he could see what God is doing in Bolivia. He chose to volunteer to serve the poor – at 57 years old. We are so proud of his willingness to “get out of the boat” and to help, heal, teach, and preach (a vision we have for many empty nesters in the USA)!!
The attached photos are a great representation of what God is doing in Bolivia – in health and in social programs.
Love from Bolivia,
By Dusty Massengill
Kevin and Gwen and the rest of the HOPE team had been working out of Hospital Arco Iris for a few years…
They all shared a shoebox office on the top floor, educating healthcare professionals and caring for those in need who lined the halls every day. The team also dreamed of opening up their own clinic, whose profits would be used to support medical needs of the poor.
During all that time at Arco Iris they interacted with the desperate poor, many of whom were orphans and vulnerable children.
Out of their love and concern, Kevin and Gwen developed a Nursing Assistant Program: a way for at-risk young people to have a chance.
Most people in America don’t know what desperate poverty looks like. Of course, many people in the States have critical needs, but the poorest of the earth are vulnerable in deeper ways. Even what they have can be taken from them.
Laws and policy, at least to some degree, protect the vulnerable poor in the United States. Programs exist. In the developing world, the chance of failure for the at-risk poor is almost guaranteed.
With this in mind, the team put their heads together and made a plan.
Gwen wrote a grant proposal to Project Redwood, a group out of Stanford led by David Blenko, a former administrator and long-time supporter of HOPE worldwide. David and his team loved the idea of starting a Nursing Assistant Program, the first of its kind in Bolivia. They offered their support immediately.
The HOPE team collaborated with Arco Iris, identified students, and set out to see what would happen…
Five students started the 6-month pilot program and two finished. Gwen, Kevin, social workers, and friends gave their hearts, knowledge, and time, and they did so in great abundance.
Was it worth it the effort? Did the program succeed? Will it continue? Three students washed out, against the tireless efforts of some of the best in the business. The benefits and costs of continuing the program are currently being weighed.
I would argue the program experienced great success, and in very measurable ways. Two made it through…out of the inaugural class, I might add. Two at-risk young women, alone in the world and abandoned, have seen their lives completely transformed.
They can now make a living in a world that didn’t care before if they lived or died. These women matter now, they have a place, they have a future, and it’s a bright one.
Tifani, the first graduate, comes from a family, though she grew up at extreme risk, perhaps more than most orphans. She has known a lifetime of criminal abuse, negligence, and exposure. She is a single mother, cares for her 2 children as well as her younger brothers and sisters.
A few years back when Tifani was receiving treatment at Hospital Arco Iris, Gwen took an interest, helped her and her family, and offered her a chance to start the program.
Tifani now works on staff at that very hospital: Arco Iris.
The second graduate, Tatiana, is an orphan. She grew up in the Arco Iris Home for Girls. Education was never really possible for Tatiana due to learning disabilities. Still she applied and was accepted. Though more difficult for her academically than anyone else, she stuck with it. Not everybody made it through, but she did.
Today, Tatiana has a family of her own and works on staff at the CMI HOPE Clinic.
Kevin, Gwen, and the rest of the team came here at great personal sacrifice with a desire to help those in need. They combined experience, faith, and action and the Nursing Assistant Program was born. Now with measurable results, who knows what stories could surface from a 2nd graduating class.
Please take a moment to enjoy our new video for a quick update about all that is happening here in La Paz with HOPE worldwide Bolivia!
• The HOPE Clinic shines brightly as it continues to provide excellent healthcare to the community!
• Our first Nursing Assistant students have graduated and are now working in their new jobs!
• And our social program initiatives are growing and expanding!
We are so grateful for all of our generous donors, supporters, and volunteers who are truly bringing hope and changing the lives of impoverished children and families here in Bolivia. You are leaving footprints of love in the hearts of so many.
Please come visit and serve with us soon!
Simona Neogoe lives this verse out in her everyday life.
Simona was born and raised in Romania. She grew up understanding firsthand the many challenges and hardships that poverty can bring upon families. And she has a heart to give back to others.
She moved to La Paz a year ago with her husband, who works within the Brazilian Embassy. Soon after she arrived, she saw the various needs within the poor population of the city and wanted to use her talents, skills, and experiences to serve in any way. She quickly contacted HOPE worldwide Bolivia to offer her time and talents.
Over the past few months, she has devoted well over 120 hours of her time in order to help within a variety of initiatives that support poor and vulnerable children and families. She has created and organized a numerical system and database for the HOPE Library, which lends books to children within community centers and Hospital Arco Iris. She regularly reads and offers play support to children within the hospital. She has tirelessly organized food, clothing, and gifts for families during the holiday months. She visits families, daycares, and orphanages to encourage and inspire children of all ages. She is always thinking and planning about how to enlist the support of other women within La Paz to help the poor.
Simona never looks for praise from others. She simply wants to use whatever skills and experiences she possesses to make a difference wherever she is living.
Because of volunteers like Simona, there are many more children and families within La Paz who are wearing bigger smiles that come from encouraged hearts. Perhaps they can now face their challenges with a bit more self-esteem and confidence…knowing that someone believes they are valuable.
Thank you, Simona 🙂