When ChildFund President and CEO Anne Goddard traveled to Bolivia this May, she was present for some ChildFund Bolivia milestones — the opening of its new national office and the opening of an Early Childhood Development center that will serve about 1,000 children. What will stick with her most, though, is the milestones achieved by the children and family members she met as she visited our programs.
She met Jimmy, 19 and about to graduate from high school, who dreams of continuing his education and becoming an architect.
She met a boy who had been born without an ear and with limited hearing. His sponsor helped him buy a set of drums. He’s now earning money as a drummer.
She met Maclovia, a mother who, with the support of ChildFund, found the courage to leave her abusive husband. She now has work, and all five of her children are in school and healing.
She met Albertina, who left school in eighth grade but is hugely proud of her studious children. They are on their way to becoming college-educated professionals thanks to ChildFund’s Early Childhood Development, after-school and youth leadership programs. Albertina’s 19-year-old daughter, Karla, remembered, “We would go there to study after school, my mother would receive training classes, and we would learn a lot, which helped us improve our grades.”
Goddard met Ivan, 11, who told her about his experience in a similar ChildFund-supported center: “We learn, we play, and we are not alone.”
She saw how community members — parents, youth and volunteers — invest their time and resources back into the local organizations through which ChildFund works and from which they receive so much. The Lucerito project near Santa Cruz, for one, has grown from serving 120 families 10 years ago to 700 now. “Our work is to prepare children and youth so that in a few years they will be able to run this center by themselves,” said Betty, the project’s coordinator. “They are the future, and we are achieving it.”
For Goddard, these stories of hope shine like jewels among the craggy Bolivian landscape, especially bright amid the poverty in which more than 60 percent of the country’s population lives. Most of this number are indigenous and live in rural areas, beyond the reach of public services like education and health care. Only 53 percent of indigenous children complete primary school. Three out of four children in Bolivia suffer from abuse in the home.
ChildFund has worked in Bolivia since 1980. Now we reach more than 100,000 children and family members there through our local partner organizations.
In the new Bolivia national office, after young people and guide mothers shared their stories, and after young musicians entertained with drums and Andean flute, and young dancers drew the adults onto the floor, Goddard reminded everyone of what they were there to celebrate as well as the ongoing task for all concerned: “A country must take care of childhood, its most valuable treasure,” she said.
It can’t be repeated often enough.