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June 2014


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¡Greetings from Cochabamba!

As we grow up, we learn that choices have consequences and that our actions affect others. Caring for our planet is living with compassion for others. Bolivia is facing a number of problems revolving environmental sustainability—deforestation, soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, and industrial pollution, to name a few. The future of Bolivia's natural resources lies in the hands of Bolivia's children. Our kids are learning to value and to take care of the environment.

Peace and Blessings,



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Compost Time

We are in the process of revamping the vegetable garden in Corazón del Pastor. Like kids, plants need a nutritious diet to grow and flourish. The basis of a thriving garden full of nutrient-rich vegetables is compost.

Our composts are made out of old garbage bins with drilled holes for aeration. This design is effective because it keeps critters out and allows the organic waste to heat up quickly, which speeds up decomposition. The girls are learning to tend to their compost pile. They add water when it seems a bit dry, crush eggshells and chop up other kitchen waste so that it will decompose faster, and scavenge leaves and straw when the pile needs more brown material. Their work is already paying off: one of the bins is nearly ready to use!

One of the best ways of solidifying newly learned material is to teach others. After gaining experience with composting in the home, our girls led a compost training session for the women from Mosoj Yan's young women’s shelter. The girls concluded their presentation with an ice cream sundae party. Each ingredient of the sundae represented an important component of compost. The girls are looking forward to meeting up with their new friends from Mosoj Yan in the future, perhaps to share in another workshop or to play soccer.

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Above Left: Clara helping drill holes to make the compost bins.
Above Right: Victoria mixing compost with soil.

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Above: Ice cream sundae demonstration.

Inch by inch, row by row...

There is something magical about watching a seed transform, first into seedling, then into fruit-bearing plant. Growing plants can teach us a lot about life. It requires patience, observation, and dedication.

One Saturday afternoon, the girls got their hands dirty. Each older girl partnered with a little one to plant seeds in the pockets of egg-cartons. Over the next couple of weeks they poured water and love into their plants, observing their subtle growth. Now the seedlings are ready for planting.

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Above Left: Alandra planting sugarsnap peas.
Above Right: Beginning to sprout.

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Above Left: Dirt!
Above Right: Alandra and Paty.

Project in the "campo" (countryside)

We have been working with a family of five orphaned siblings, living on a farm just outside of Cochabamba. Together, we are building a chicken coop and establishing an aquaponic growing system. In addition to providing fresh eggs, fish, and produce, these projects will give our kids in Corazón del Pastor and Pedacito de Cielo a chance to learn about farming.

Several of the girls visited the farm to help out. As we drove up, the youngest sibling Efrain raced across the field to greet us. We found Raquel, climbing a tree in the yard, harvesting "pacay" fruits to share. The older brothers had gone to fetch a chainsaw.

We spent the morning preparing materials for the chicken coop and constructing a compost pile out of rocks. Cynthia masterfully described how to make effective compost. The kids learned from each other and shared with each other.

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Above Left: Tía Marcela and Abigail moving materials for the chicken coop.
Above Right: Building a compost pile.

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Above Left: Efrain collecting sticks for the compost.
Above Right: Abigail and Laura feeding alfalfa to the neighbor's cow.

A day at Tía Celia's

Tía Celia's yard is a hidden oasis in the city. Fruit trees scatter the lawn, there are numerous compost piles, and gardens line the vine-covered walls. Her landlord even owns rabbits and a vacant greenhouse. To reinforce many of the themes the girls have been learning about during our environmental month, Corazón del Pastor spent a Saturday working in the greenhouse and enjoying Celia's oasis.

Before the sun got too hot, the girls and tíos worked together to clean out the greenhouse. They removed dried up plant refuse (and added it to the compost piles), and prepared the soil for planting. Tía Maritza prepared a delicious barbeque picnic, which everyone enjoyed after a fulfilling morning of work.

It was a lazy afternoon, filled with siestas in the grass, shooting basketball hoops, enjoying the sauna, and playing with the rabbits and puppy.

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Above Left: Tío Frido and Tía Georgia sowing peas.
Above Right: Laura.

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Above Left: Mmmmm...parsley!
Above Right: Typical Bolivian afternoon snack: "Alfajores"

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Above Left: Celia's dog Trevi, with Paty.
Above Right: Sauna cleanse.

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Our furry, feathered and finned friends

Bad experiences can last with us a lifetime if we don't actively confront them. Several of our Pedacito boys are terrified of dogs and other animals. In some cases they have experienced scary encounters with dogs on the street, and in other cases they have had little exposure to animals and not yet learned to see them as friends. The problem is magnified because fear is contagious. The kids are learning that when they are scared, dogs are scared too and feel the need to protect themselves.

We have been gradually increasing the kids' exposure to animals—watching birds in the park, visiting farm animals, and caring for household pets. Pedacito de Cielo has a new baby in the house: Missi-Fous, a little grey fur-ball. When she arrived to the home, the boys gathered to greet her. Each took a turn holding her and asking her to protect them. At first, Eneas and Bemabe were hesitant to be alone with Missi-Fous, but now they love her.

The boys take turns taking care of Missi-Fous, giving her water, food, and cleaning out her bed. They are also learning to respect her space and understand that sometimes she doesn't want to play. The kids are making friends with lots of animals. Pedacito de Cielo took a trip to the city center, and the highlight of the morning was feeding birds in the plaza.

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Above: Eating a snack and observing the pigeons play.

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Above Left: Mateo sharing with his feathered friends.
Above Right: Missi-Fous :)

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Above Left: Missi-Fous, playing hide-and-go-seek with the kids.
Above Right: Marcos loving his new furry playmate.

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Above Left: Marcos and Mateo.
Above Right: Hola!

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Above Left: Zaquiel cleaning the litter box.
Above Right: Missi-Fous eating her snack.

Water, water, water

Pedacito del Cielo realized the hard way that water is a precious resource that we must conserve. We have run out of water in our tank for washing clothes and dishes several times this month. Water supplies are limited in the neighborhood, and because there are lots of little boys with lots of dirty clothes to clean, the tías have to be extra conscious of water-use.

The tías have developed a more efficient system for washing clothes that requires less water. The system requires more communication and cooperation. The heavily soiled clothes are separated from the lightly worn and treated differently. While running out of water is no fun, it is a lesson in teamwork. It also increases the kids' awareness of conserving, and understanding that water is a vital life resource that we cannot always take for granted.

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Above: Marcos learning to wash dishes without wasting water.

The coldest night of the year

Bolivian culture is traditionally very connected with nature. San Juan (June 23rd) is the shortest, and supposedly coldest night of the year. It is a night that marks change—the days begin to lengthen after months of shortening. Typically, people gather around bonfires to sing, play guitar, and roast sausages. Past generations used to celebrate San Juan by burning lots of wood, exploding firecrackers, and playing with fire. The holiday would last two days because after a night of burning, the air was too smoky to breath and see. The profusion of hospitalizations, kids with burns, lost fingers, and general environmental contamination led the government to ban burning anything during San Juan. This year, we celebrated the "coldest night of the year" with hot chocolate and lots of roasted sausages!

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Above Left: A bowl of meat from our night of San Juan.
Above Right: Our girls, instead of damaging the environment, got up early the next week and cleaning out the vacant lot neighboring our house.

At Niños con Valor we believe in environmental consciousness. We want to offer the best possible world to future generations. If we open our ears, our eyes, and our hearts to the natural world around us, we observe that many of our activities are having a negative impact on the environment. But we also notice that by collecting trash, planting seeds, caring for plants and trees, saving water, and treating animals with compassion, we can make positive changes.

Peace and Love from the children, staff and volunteers of Niños con Valor.

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