Ring of Honor…and Zebras.

by guest author Fenton Gardner
As someone who has been to La Paz twice before, I knew what to expect in certain situations. However, there were two new experiences on this trip that surprised and impacted my heart.

I was deeply moved by our visit to a temporary shelter for children. These children are brought, often in the middle of the night, to be protected from severely abusive situations. We were able to spend some time with an amazing group of boys.  We read them a book about the inspirational life of Wilma Rudolph, emphasizing how challenges and setbacks in life don’t have to be permanent.  I was sincerely encouraged to hear their answers to my questions and their insights into the story.

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Afterwards, we created a “Ring of Honor”, which is a time for everyone to share and receive compliments from each other.  This is a valued tradition at The Swamp Summer Camp that my daughter attends every summer. It was very moving to see these boys, who are enduring tough situations, thoughtfully compliment one another.  Comments ranged from “he helps me make my bed”, “he helps me do my laundry” to “he’s really friendly” and “he’s like a big brother to me”.  Watching each boy’s face light up when his peers described his most admirable qualities is a memory that will remain in my heart for a very long time.

The other event that I will always treasure is being a “Zebra for a Day”.  To be a part of something that is an international phenomenon, and yet is something unique to Bolivia, was an unequaled delight.  We were given the priceless opportunity to bring joy and smiles to the children, adults and elderly of La Paz.  When we put on the Zebra suit, we spread joy, cheer and kindness. It is a perfect metaphor for being a disciple of Christ.  When we are clothed with Christ, we have the incredible honor of doing the exact same thing everyday.  This experience was a truly remarkable and memorable lesson.

zebra FentonMy time in La Paz always leaves a lasting impression on my heart. Thank you, once again,  for the opportunity to serve like Jesus in very real and practical ways.

Reflecting…with HOPE.

Enjoy this post by our guest author, and recent volunteer, Halie Clark.  

copy-of-img_5873.jpgEarlier this month, I had the privilege to serve in Bolivia for 9 days. To say that I was impacted would be an understatement. My time in Bolivia was rich in serving the poor, loving the lonely, and walking with those that Jesus would have walked with. One of my most favorite days was the park day that we had on Saturday. Once a month, the HOPE team hosts a park day for vulnerable families to come play, eat and fellowship together. It is a special time together as these families travel quite a ways from intense home lives to enjoy an afternoon at the park.

During our four hour park time, we played with kids on the playground, jumped rope, played with bubbles (which are a BIG HIT!) and spent time together. Speaking Spanish gave me the ability to talk with several of the mothers who were seated around the park with younger children. As I sat down during lunch with one of the “Mamis”, she shared with me her gratitude for HOPE. She told me how the HOPE team checks up on her and her kids regularly, how they give a helping hand, how they’re providing her with the medicine she needs, and the difference HOPE is making in her life. “WOW!” I thought to myself. In my first world mind, HOPE is a program that we hear about and support, and we are always encouraged when we hear about their work. But to this Bolivian momma, HOPE saved her life, and she sat in front of me at a loss for words for their help and encouragement. I sat there under the shade of the trees in the park and let that sink in. With tears in her eyes she could barely form the words of gratitude she had for all that HOPE meant to her and her family.img_2196.jpg

I saw HOPE in action that day. I saw real life disciples being the hands and feet of Jesus- loving the less fortunate, playing the same games for hours, listening to and keeping company with the poor, feeding the hungry, and healing the sick. This is what being a disciple is supposed to look like – simply loving people without hesitation or reservation. That Saturday in the park I learned something about myself. I do not walk as Jesus did; I do not keep company often enough with those that he did; I do not love those he came to love…and by that I am convicted and challenged. HOPE is helping to change lives in Bolivia by being the hands and feet of Jesus.

So as I sit here in my air conditioned living room, I am reminded to take time to sit with the hungry, and listen to the cries of the poor, for they have much to teach me if I should grant them a moment or two of my time and heart.

“True compassion means not only feeling another’s pain but also being moved to help relieve it.” Daniel Goleman

 

Offering kindness…and HOPE.

When serving the poor, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the immense amount of needs and heartache associated with poverty.  However, even as we struggle to best meet the needs around us, we should never forget the power of a smile, a kind touch or an encouraging word.

IMG_4344Emma Fridley, an aspiring PA student, is currently volunteering in LaPaz for 6 months. She serves as a nursing assistant in the HOPE clinic and also spends time with many of the families in our Family Empowerment program. Emma recently shared a story that taught her the value of simple gestures done in love.

One day, while spending time with a particular family, she noticed a young child who was reserved and kept to herself most of time.

It was cold and so I asked her ‘are you cold?’ She said ‘yeah.’ So I put my arm around her and pulled her close to me and we sat like that for maybe 45 minutes. Just sitting and not really talking.  You could tell as we sat that she desired that closeness so much. As time went on, she sat closer and closer to me. You could tell that she needed that so badly, even without words, she needed that expression of love.

It made me think about the scripture in 1 John where it says ‘let us not love with words or speech but in actions and in truth.’ She just needed a hug. She needed to be close to somebody and to feel safe. I felt very helpless to do anything. I knew I couldn’t really do much to change her situation. I couldn’t take her away from her family or anything. But what I could do is sit with her and put my arm around her and hug her.

That was what she needed in that moment and sometimes that is what we all need. We need somebody to go out of their way to sit with us for a little longer than normal. It’s amazing because the next time we went there, she knew me. She was really excited to see me. I sat with her again and she assumed her position. She sat right next to me. We stayed like that again for the rest of the time. It was amazing because she knew that I would be there next time to sit with her.

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It can be really overwhelming to think about all the needs, especially as you get to build these relationships. It can make you wonder ‘what am I doing?’. Seeing all of these needs makes me realize more and more that I can’t fix the world. I can give love and that makes a difference. And I know that I can pray to a God who can fix and who can heal.  He can make a difference long after I am gone. That makes service so much more of a joy because I can trust that God is going to do so much more with what I have to give.

Emma will be leaving LaPaz soon to continue her education in the United States.  We have no doubts, however, that her impact here will be felt long after she leaves. Thank you, Emma, for reminding us that everyone is able to help, to love and to make a difference in the lives around us.

If you would like to learn more about our volunteer opportunities, or offer financial support to our programs in LaPaz, please contact us!

An Example of Service…and Hope.

Sometimes, even as adults, we are still asking ourselves who we want to be when we “grow up”.

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Eugenia teaching a captive audience.

For many of us in HOPEww – Bolivia, we can think of no better role model than Eugenia Durán Chuquimia Bolivar.

Eugenia is a member of the local church, Iglesia Discípulos De Cristo La Paz.  For years before HOPE began its work in LaPaz, Eugenia and a group of other older women, (they call themselves “La Señoras”), have been seeking help the impoverished.  The group would gather clothes to distribute and sell chocolates to raise money for those in need.

 

“I admire Eugenia a lot because she is an example for all of us. I love her so much because she encourages me to continue helping,” said Susana Siles, a member of the La Señoras group.

When HOPEww – Bolivia began 6 years ago, Eugenia immediately began to offer her time and energy to the efforts of serving the poor.  Since that time, she has helped families clean their homes, connected them with clothing, furniture, local resources, given wise counsel, began a donation center within her home and provided hours of support and friendship to adults and children within HOPE’s programs.

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Helping Julia write her business plan.

There are many obstacles in Eugenia’s own life.  In some ways, her life reflects those she serves. However, if you ever have the precious opportunity to spend time with this woman, it’s likely you won’t hear about her challenges.  Rather, you will hear her of her constant desire to discover ways she can relieve the suffering of others.

“My heart is big for service. I know that I want to give thanks to God, that is why I want to take care of those who need it the most. My heart is prepared to help everyone. I see things and I want to help. Wherever it takes me… I always go. I am called and I go. I do not say ‘no’. It encourages me…I want to work.”

If you would like to support our programs, or learn more about the work being done here in LaPaz, Bolivia, please contact us!

 

Clothed in Love…and Hope.


img_4120.jpegRodrigo Carrasco is 21 years old.  He is a Philosophy student at the local University, and a National Racquetball Champion in Bolivia. You can also see him at many of our HOPE events, giving his time and his heart to serve those in need.

Rodri confesses that he did not always have the desire to give in this way. He states, “I did not care much for people…I felt pity but not mercy.”

This all changed when, in July of 2016, Rodri met a 12 year old boy named Cristofer. Cristofer had a debilitating lung infection.  He was a long-term patient on the pediatric floor of Hospital Arco Iris, where HOPE offers games and reading activities to encourage and entertain the young patients.

“I remember one day, I had bad back pain and I wanted to go home and sleep. That day Cristofer did not want to eat alone. I rarely like to eat with people, maybe with a dog or my mom. I started feeding him and he had me pick out the little things he did not want to eat. I felt happy. I hurt in my back but I was happy.”

IMG_2528-XLTogether, the pair read Ironman comics and Cristofer recounted his own dreams of being a fantastic, flying superhero to Rodrigo. Rodri in turn shared his fascination with the stars and universe. One Sunday, before he was planning to visit Cristofer the following week, Rodrigo received stunning news about Cristofer’s death.

“I felt bad. He impacted me a lot…I didn’t know how to think. I went to a corner and I remember…tears started falling. I was crushed because I saw him…I knew him…he was here.”

Rodrigo’s relationship with Cristofer continues to impact him. When he is tired and cannot find the strength to serve, he is motivated by his desire to be clothed in love and give of himself to others. He explains,

“I remember a beautiful quote that says ‘My heart carries my body when my feet no longer can.’ This quote reminds me that Jesus did not carry his cross with his muscles but with love. He was clothed in love and I want to be clothed in love.”

Thank you, Rodri, for the example you set for others, and for your service to Foundation HOPE worldwide – Bolivia!

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Rodri happily helping one of our families carry home their monthly food stipend 

If you would like to know how you can volunteer with Foundation HOPE worldwide – Bolivia, or how you can support our programs, contact us here.

Growing in Confidence…and Hope.

JuliaJulia* is a woman of great strength and perseverance.  She and her four children are from a small town outside of La Paz. For years, they endured intense abuse from Julia’s husband. She often thought about leaving but her fears consumed her: “Where will we sleep? Where will we go? I don’t know how to do anything…I never encouraged myself to leave there,” she explained.

One particular night, the abuse became unbearable. After an especially frightening incident involving her daughter, Julia made the decision to flee their home. For two weeks, they ran from her husband, barely surviving on small pools of water along the way. Julia and her children eventually landed on a farm outside of Cochabamba, a city 7 hours from La Paz.

Far from home, exhausted, and starving, Julia harvested crops on the farm in exchange for shelter, food and water. Eventually, she and her children boarded a truck to La Paz. In La Paz, life continued to be challenging for them. Having no friends or family to rely on, the family slept on the street, eating trash, and begging for money.

“It is really hard to live in the streets. You are discriminated against by people because you live on the streets. They think you are an alcoholic or on drugs. They look at you with ugly looks. Living in the streets was a very horrible experience in my life,” Julia shared.

After months of being alone in La Paz, she discovered a support program through Fundación Arco Iris which provided her with food and other resources. While at a meeting in 2013, Julia met a blonde, tall, slim, woman who walked with a cane. They spoke briefly and parted ways. The following year, Julia ran into the same woman at Hospital Arco Iris, where her youngest daughter was admitted with a serious illness.

“I was on the third floor (children’s ward) in the Hospital Arco Iris and Noelle arrives with a huge basket and says, ‘WHO WANTS TO PLAY!? WHO WANTS TOYS?’.  I think that God has sent me to the HOPE Foundation and Noelle is the first person who extended me a hand. When I did not have bread, she gave me bread, when I was not in health, she gave me health. It’s a blessing for me, for my family,” Julia recalled.

2017-04-20 15.46.14Julia and her family quickly endeared themselves to the HOPE team. After Julia was able to secure a simple cinderblock house for her family, the HOPE team and the local church, Iglesia Discípulos De Cristo, provided beds and other valuable items for her and her children.  Julia was very grateful for all she had been given but she also deeply desired to be self-supportive. She had a goal to own a food cart, so that she could cook and sell food in order to support her family.  Several volunteers came together to help her achieve this desire. With counsel and financial support, Julia was able to create a business plan, purchase a cart and is now in training for her vendor certification.

Julia shares, with a soft smile,
“The most important thing is that I have been given moral support. I have been made to feel that I was a person worth something for my children and for the community. That’s something I did not have. They have said ‘you are important’ and I feel important now.”

For Julia, HOPE has become a second family that has empowered and encouraged her goals, enabling her to provide for herself and her children. For the HOPE team, Julia remains a treasured example of courage, strength and perseverance.

Julia receiving her food cart and supplies
Thank you, Poulson Family (and so many others),
for the generosity and kindness you have given to Julia and her family!

*Julia has given her permission to share her story, name and photos in order to inspire others with her courage and strength.

Driven to Compassion… and HOPE

 
IMG_3946When compassion and intelligence combine, we think you will meet someone very much like Dr. Fabian Wayar.

Dr. Wayar was a medical intern in 2011 at Hospital Arco Iris when he befriended Dr. Kevin Broyles, the country director for Foundation HOPEww Bolivia. While serving at the hospital, Fabian was impressed by the HOPE  team’s compassion and dedication to serve the people of La Paz. He states,

“I’ve known many foundations that came here with the intentions of helping people, but actually that was not what occurred. As I was observing HOPE, how they were doing things, and what things they were doing, I saw that HOPE was helping for real.”

Through an on-going mentoring relationship, Dr. Broyles was able to facilitate valuable continuing educational opportunities for Fabian both in Bolivia and in the United States.  In November 2016, Dr. Wayar became the Director of Medical Education and Quality Assurance at Centro Médico Internacional HOPE clinic (CMI). His role is dedicated to providing ongoing educational opportunities for personnel, and ensuring excellent patient care. Fabian has also expressed that working with HOPE has given him the opportunity to further dsplinting-workshop-2016evelop his compassion. In a recent conversation, he recalled a distinct experience with a terminally ill cancer patient.

“This person was my age… It was very challenging for me to tell him that there was no cure for his disease. But I had to give him hope to live in the present. Knowing that a person will not live long doesn’t mean that person has to stop living today.” 

Dr. Wayar further shared that this experience has had a profound impact on his future goals,

“I have reconfigured my desires to come back here when I finish my specialty; wherever it takes placeI don’t want to live outside of this country because a lot of people here need help and I can continue the foundation’s work…helping the people that need it the most.  HOPE here works as a team that really helps. They are compassionate and care about the well-being of human beings…that is what I like most about the Foundation.”

We are immensely grateful for Dr. Wayar’s service to HOPEww – Bolivia. This is who HOPE is.

If you are interested in providing financial support, volunteering or learning more about our programs, please contact us here!