Monday, August 20, 2007

By Nicole Duciaume, Documentation and Sponsorship Support Officer

La Paz, Bolivia
CCF-Bolivia National Office is tucked away in an area of La Paz known as Miraflores. I know this only because of neighborhood signs, not because I had any idea of how to navigate around the city. The streets are steep and winding. The drivers are innovative and fast. The buses were on strike today, which left the pedestrians plentiful and quick on their feet. From hotel to office it was no more than 20 minutes, but any hope of finding my way back on my own would have lasted a lot longer.
On the agenda for today were meetings followed by discussions which preceded more meetings. Throughout the day I was impressed with our staff, both those accompanying me on the visit as well as those from the Bolivia National Office. Some of our Bolivian colleagues I knew from my previous trip and was delighted to reconnect with them. Others were new to the organization, or at least new to me. The discussions were thorough, informative and intense. It is often difficult to keep a room full of people focused for a day around the conference table, but all parties truly had a commitment to expansion into the new program area, El Alto.

The National Office shared some staggering statistics: approximately 87% of children suffer from some form of abuse within the home environment; over 800,000 children and youth work; only 17% of the children have access to education; and 600,000 children do not have birth certificates, which leaves them vulnerable to not being recognized by the government which could leave them excluded from basic rights such as schooling. Fortunately there were some uplifting numbers as well. CCF currently works with approximately 98,000 children from 14,024 families in 495 communities in five departments (states). Tomorrow we will learn even more about the situation and statistics in El Alto.

Towards the end of the day I had the opportunity to sit down with one Bolivian colleague to learn more about her position within the organization and the various roles she plays. Her name is Monica and she is the ECD Technician for El Alto. ECD stands for Early Childhood Development and according to the National Office, only 6% of Bolivian children have access to these types of activities and services. As I mentioned, Monica will be based in El Alto and ECD has been identified by the people in the community as one of the most crucial programming needs. Monica has a degree in education. She joined CCF nearly 10 years ago, but just recently turned her focus to ECD. She chose this area of concentration because she believes that they are the most vulnerable group of children in the country. She hopes the day will come when all children in Bolivia have a healthy start in life and not lacking education, nourishment or support.

Monica initially began working with CCF as a consultant doing research and then for seven years she worked in ECD at the project level (an urban project in La Paz). She believes that CCF truly offers the needed tools to work with children in ECD and she is excited to join the team in developing programs in El Alto, where she will be training the communities on what ECD is and what role CCF will play. She described El Alto as the area within Bolivia that has the most need and where strong programs will have the most impact. The idea of helping more children, reaching more families, and having a larger influence are the goals and ideals Monica holds for her career.

Monica was just one of the various colleagues I met with today and will continue to learn from over the remainder of the week. Throughout the day, everyone in the room expressed their commitment to the organization, the programs and the opening of successful partnerships with the municipalities, communities, children, youth and parents in El Alto. Tomorrow we ascend back to El Alto to see the area, receive an orientation of the new office, document the community needs and meet with the aforementioned stakeholders. There is little substitute for seeing an area first hand and speaking directly with the program participants, but personal consultations are what sustain our commitment to CCF, the communities and the children.

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