Tuesday, August 28, 2007

By Nicole Duciaume, Documentation and Sponsorship Support Officer

Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Today is Monday and I have not been able to write for a few days, principally because of traveling but also because I am now on a borrowed computer in the lobby of a quaint hotel in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The weather is surprisingly dreary, cold and wet…which is unexpected for a town known for its warm, sunny and pleasant weather nearly year round. According to my very knowledgeable taxi driver, the weather should be less than ideal up through Wednesday, coincidentally the same day I am scheduled to return to the US. So I continue to wrap my alpaca shawl tightly around my shoulders and continue on.

Santa Cruz, Bolivia
As far as an update is concerned, Friday was spent in La Paz at the National Office giving a briefing on the events of the week and the objectives going forward. It was a very fruitful conversation and it lasted until late evening. I think between the US delegation offering support and the Bolivia team’s knowledge and experience, the programs in the new area will thrive. The day ended with hand shakes, hugs and promises to remain in contact throughout the process.

Saturday was quite a treat. We left La Paz and within two hours we were at Tiahuanacu, the ancient ruins of a civilization that gave birth to modern day indigenous cultures throughout Bolivia (and into several neighboring countries as well). The culture predates the Aztec, Mayans and Incas that we have all studied throughout our schooling years. The ruins are incredible and yet mostly still hidden beneath the surface. According to our guide, Benedito, only 10% of the structures have been unearthed thus far. There is something very surreal about walking on sacred ground, taking photos and learning the ins-and-outs of this vast culture while anthropologists are literally over your shoulder still uncovering the treasures and keys to the past.

Sunday morning was dedicated to another trip to the Witches Market to pick up a few remaining gifts and then lunching with a friend from my previous trip to Bolivia. The early afternoon comprised solely of trying to fit all my purchases into my previously already full suitcase. I truly should have had more restraint when it came to the market deals. I am not sure if was the thrill of the bargain or just my dedication to helping the local economy, but my suitcase is now officially stuffed to the brim. Sunday evening I left for the airport to start the final leg of my trip. We landed in rain-drenched Santa Cruz at about 10pm and I quickly settled into my hotel room and drifted off to sleep.

Today I visited three projects in the outer rings of Santa Cruz. The city is a set of concentric circles which begin in the city square and then the poverty increases as you ripple out into the outskirts of the town. The areas in which we work are part urban and part rural and yet entirely comprised of smiling children who are in need. In the afternoon and evening I participated in enrollment trainings and small group discussions with members of the communities. We explained the general criteria for enrollment and then helped the communities define the specifics for their individual circumstances. For example, it is a CCF guideline that we enroll the neediest, the most vulnerable, the most excluded, so we had the communities define what is the base level and then how to reach the children and families who fall below that line. This participatory approach is a cornerstone of CCF’s partnership with the communities.

As I am on the only internet-connected computer in the hotel lobby and a small line is forming, I will bid you a fond adieu from Santa Cruz.

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