Reporting by Leslie Gamero, Country Director, ChildFund Bolivia
If you could travel to Rafael’s community in Bolivia right now, you would see a curious sight: small white flags tucked in the doorways of red brick homes, fluttering at the end of dirt roads, calling for attention from seemingly everywhere.
These flags are not some kind of national symbol. They represent a dignified plea for food from thousands of families. And they signal to Rafael that his assistance is needed to fight the hunger caused by coronavirus in Bolivia.
“I may not be a millionaire, but even a grain of sand can help,” says the 23-year-old sponsored youth, who collects food items from the community and delivers them to the families in need himself.
Over a crackling telephone connection, we spoke to Rafael to learn more about the situation in Bolivia – and why he is doing this work.
Like so many other places in the world, Bolivia has been in various phases of lockdown ever since the coronavirus pandemic made its way to the South American country in mid-March. Now, with the virus taking its terrifying toll on communities all over the country, citizens are only allowed to leave their homes once a week for a maximum of four hours to get food and medicine. Families that earn a living from informal work are facing severe food shortages, and hunger has become a major problem in Bolivia.
Rafael is part of a network that has been formed in his community to collect donated food items and redistribute them to families in need. When a family hangs a white flag on their door, he knows their fight against hunger has begun – and he makes sure to connect with them on what they need.
The young man, who lives with his mom and his cat, has been an active participant in his community and in ChildFund’s programs for what feels like forever. He got his sponsor, Ruth in Minnesota, when he was about 5 or 6, and she has always written to him and encouraged him. But he remembers how things were before that – how it felt, as a very young child, to go hungry.
“When I was little, many times I went through that situation of not having anything to eat, as we lived like so many of those families out there that subsist on daily wages,” Rafael says. So when the COVID-19 lockdown forced so many families in his community to ask for help, “I knew I had to do something.”
Rafael does not remember how many families he has helped, but he says that whenever he delivers food to a family, he gets huge smiles in return.
“When my situation was really critical as a child, my sponsor supported me, even with her letters, cards, everything,” he says. “I believe she also inspired me to help these families.”
You can help those families, too – when you sponsor a child in Bolivia.
And if you want more stories that dive into the impact of coronavirus in other countries, check out our COVID-19 Response by Country page. You’ll find detailed information about our work for children in each country we serve.
More on Bolivia
More on countries