After losing touch with our contact for a while, which is not uncommon in these parts, we finally made it back out to the campo (rural area) in Pukara and Esmerelda Norte to do follow-up visits with families with whom we had previously worked. We were able to deliver the mattresses to two families and solar ovens to three, which was made possible by the giving of our short-term teams who did these visits with us.

It’s always interesting to see people’s reactions when the solar oven is brought out, and we explain how to use it. They initially look very quizzical and skeptical, but just in the short time that we’re instructing them how to use it and the oven heats up, they realise that we’re not making it up and it actually works. Cochabamba is a perfect place to have a solar oven with all the sun we get year round, and if they really do get into using it, I know their going to love it and realise what a time-saver and money-saver it is as I own one myself.

Getting involved in people’s lives is never an easy task, and it’s difficult to not bring along one’s preconceived notions of how things should be done, even when taking cultural differences into account. It can be difficult to see past the depth of their poverty, the 5 to 6 people all living in one room not much bigger than my bedroom, the perpetually dirty clothes even when they’ve technically been washed, no outhouse or any sort of facilities in sight, and the sad reality that many of these children are not attending school. It’s easy to pop in, deliver some food or clothing and pop back out again, creating a feel-good memory for oneself. It can also be easy to dream big and have a wonderful plan to bring people out of poverty over a 10 year span, but have no concrete way of putting that plan into action. What’s difficult is to land in the middle and move beyond the one-time gifts and truly enter into relationship with these people, hear what they need, sharing with them in a way that they can accept and understand, and take our lofty dreams and put them down on the ground in practical long-term service.

It was great having Lupe and Edgar with us to be able to speak Quechua, it made it possible for us to communicate effectively with these families. Many thanks to them. I’m not really into feeling left out of things going on around me, so I’m thinking some Quechua lessons might be on the horizon…