All Hail, The First Graduating Class

By Dusty Massengill


The HOPE Bolivia Team at the tiny office in Hospital Arco Iris

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.


Kevin and Gwen with two applicants to the Nursing Assistant Program


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.


Tifani and Tatiana during their class work


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.


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