Niños con Valor E-Newsletter - December 2009
How to sum up a year like that had by NCV in 2009...
A roller-coaster? But that is out of context, and besides, it's not really accurate. Perhaps a picture is better:
This past year has been a winding road, steadily up up, full of blind turns, breathbashingly gorgeous vistas, to wit: a ride.
One could list off the achievements of the year and the hopes for the year to come; yet, though this is a major bend in the calendar, it is yet one more curve on the road.
So instead of making lists, I would like to express a simple thanks. To our supporters, to our volunteers, to our staff, and especially to our children. We are all on this bumpy fun-filled ride together; what has been is because of each and every one of you, what will be, will be because you make it possible.
And, if I can offer one simple thought as 2010 unfolds - "steady forward."
Those who have embarked on some journey or other along the meandering roads of the Andes, they know well what I am talking about. Turns come quick, drop-offs are steep, roads narrow, landslides happen, but go slow, steady forward, look around - the beauty of Life cannot be sullied by its obstacles.
Peace and Love,
(Photo taken on the road to Mizque by Kimberly Setzer)
Bright and early on Friday, December 18th, a diverse team from NCV departed from the girls' home headed out to Mizque for our much-anticipated Christmas visits to the campo. We had a large group of volunteers, the one and only Tia Celia, 10 of our oldest girls, an incredible bus driver, and Edgar, our beloved travel guide who often joins us for road trips. The beginning of December had been filled with preparations and lots of running around for this trip, making sure we had enough toys for the kids, enough food for the families, and making sure all the girls were organized.
The girls were great on the 4-hour bus ride to Mizque, fascinated by the scenery. Many of them had their heads stuck out the window or were taking photos the entire ride! We arrived in Mizque before noon and got settled in at our accommodations. After lunch, the girls worked hard, putting together all 280 food baskets that we would be giving to the famlies in Patawasi and Mina Asientos over the next two days. We had a production/packing system running with success.
We were all sweaty and exhausted, but also excited after the intense Friday afternoon prep. We had a delicious dinner at the local market. We were so were lucky to have a woman who has a market stall cook for us all weekend. Friday night was an early bedtime, since we were to leave for Patawasi at 5am!
Left - The girls piled into the back of the delivery truck to drive through the fog into Patawasi.
Right - Those of us who walked met some members of the community working on the road.
Left - View through the morning fog.
Right - One of the family's homes, with their pig who many of us got to meet on our walk.
At 5am on Saturday, we all boarded the bus to visit the first community that is part of the province of Mizque, Patawasi. It was a bumpy drive and we had to hop off the bus a bit early and walk the whole way because of the thick fog. We arrived to the preparation of Api and buñuelos which we shared for breakfast with the community.
Left - Volunteers walking down the road into the community.
Center - A proud mother and her baby, ready for breakfast.
Right - His whole face is smiling.
Above - Sofia, Lourdes and Elena are ready to give gifts with huge smiles on their faces.
It really was a special morning. Little by little, more kids and parents and elders came down from their homes to the main field where we held the event. Our girls and the Patawasi boys played a giant game of soccer, and we had time to take photos and get to know the kids a bit. Everyone enjoyed breakfast and our girls did a great job handing out the toys to the Patawasi kids. Some were thrilled with the trucks and barbie dolls and started playing right away, others were so careful and wouldn't take their gifts out of the packaging.
Left - These three boys had a lot of fun ringing the bell prematurely, over and over again.
Right - Tia Celia with two of the lead soccer players in the community.
Left - Soccer in the fog.
Right - What a great smile. He is very proud to show off his truck.
Above - Mother and children waiting patiently for breakfast to begin.
While the social worker Hilda and some of the adults handed out the food baskets to the families, the volunteers and girls introduced the Patawasi kids to the incredible parachute. The parachute games were definitely a highlight, and we all left the community with a sense of joy and gratitude for these peoples' hospitality and what we were able to share.
Left - Everyone is smiling after the hilarity of the parachute.
Right - Getting ready to lift the parachute up high.
Above - Under the parachute dome, absolutely loving it.
We arrived back in Mizque before noon and ate a HUGE lunch which consisted of soup and an enormous plate of Silpancho.
Left - View from above.
Right - Hilda and one of the community leaders from Mizque serving Api to the kids.
Left - The girls getting ready to give out the gifts.
Right - The gift-giving chaos.
We couldn't take too much time, because we already had to be on our way to Mina Asientos, where we would share a breakfast and give gifts the next day. That night we made a campfire, arranged our rooms and ate another huge meal, and before bed, two of the miners from the community shared with us a history of the town and gave us an inside look at life in the mines. Mina Asientos faces many struggles, and the mining life is definitely one of sacrifice, but the miners and community leaders demonstrated so much pride for their community, and were incredibly willing to share their stories with us amidst the hardships.
Left - The wife of our host with her children, enjoying their breakfast in the shade.
Right - Community members enjoying breakfast all around the ledges of the yard.
Left - These young lads look like they are friends for life.
Right - The beautiful, reciprocal face-painting session.
Sunday morning was the big event in Mina Asientos. Starting at about 8am children and families started streaming into the area where we were serving breakfast and giving out the toys and food baskets. We were expecting chaos of some sort, since we would be with over 1000 community members compared to the 100-or-so in Patawasi. There was enough api and bread to go around, and every kid who came was able to receive their Christmas gift. Our girls showed themselves to be stars once again, working hard with the set-up and handing out of the gifts. They didn't complain or show stress, they engaged with the other kids with smiles and didn't even ask for breakfast for themselves (though they gladly ate it when Kimber brought them their portion).
Left - One of the biggest games of soccer, and biggest soccer fields we've ever seen!
Right - A young boy thoughtfully beginning his breakfast.
When most of the toys had been distributed, our volunteers invited the kids that were still around to head down to the giant soccer field, where we played with the parachute and had a massive soccer game. Our volunteer Kelley took charge of face-painting and in no time she had the kids painting each other. Apparently soccer and face-painting brings people together!
Left - The long line-up of girls, waiting for their Christmas presents.
Center - Two gorgeous smiles after receiving their gifts.
Right - The boys waiting excitedly.
Above - The women waiting to receive food baskets for their families.
On Sunday at noon, we couldn't believe that the weekend was finally winding down. Some community members from Mina Asientos actually went fishing that morning and cooked up the fresh fish for lunch. The care that went into hosting us and preparing all of our meals was overwhelming, and very much appreciated. Our NCV team finally got to rest on the bus ride back to Mizque, and we had a low-key, fun-filled Sunday evening which included a hilarious game of volleyball and an outdoor movie in Mizque's central plaza.
On Monday afternoon we arrived back at CDP, with a wealth of new experiences and mixed emotions, and we were definitely grateful to be home. We cannot say at this point what impact we made on the kids, on the families. An incredibly valuable part of the trip was seeing the amazing capabilities of our CDP girls, and seeing them interact with the other community members as equals. This was the beginning of what could develop into rich relationships, and we definitely have a lot to learn and share.
*All names have been changed to protect the children's privacy.
More photos of One Child at a Time Events events can be found here.
December has been a very full month for the girls at CDP. We entered into the month by celebrating World AIDS Day, which the girls had been practising hard for at the end of November. All of our girls participated in the event that morning, which started off with a special mass at the Catholic Temple at the principal plaza. Then, it was finally time for the big performance! Our younger and older girls danced beautifully, a performance which took so much courage in front of the many people who were in the Plaza that morning. Amanda Gavan, the professional dancer from New York who volunteered to work with the girls for this event, also performed an amazing solo. A few of our younger girls were also winners of the art contest they participated in in October, and were presented with prizes on stage. It was an important day for all of our girls to be a voice in solidarity with children living with HIV/AIDS, and they definitely learned new and valuable lessons throughout the process. We were all sad to see Amanda go, as she made such an impact in her short time here. We are glad to hear that she has plans to come back in the future.
Left - Amanda with all of the performers, dressed and ready to dance in the plaza.
Right - Elena smiling before the show. She was a bit nervous, but you couldn't tell during the dance!
Left - Amanda on her last day with Jhoselin and Camila, proudly wearing her hand-printed shirt from the girls.
Right - Angela showing off her drawing, which was one of the winners of the World AIDS Day art contest.
World AIDS day feels like ages ago, since Christmas preparation and celebration took over the rest of the month. The girls all helped decorate the house and put up the tree, and have contributed their share of home-made decorations. Since it's vacation time, they have also gone on some fun outings, such as our trip to the 'Tobogan', a crazy and wonderful slide that the girls absolutely loved. On the weekend of December 18th, our ten oldest girls accompanied a team of staff and volunteers to Mizque, which you have just finished reading about. The younger girls spent a day at Pairumani, which is a beautiful eco-park in the mountains outside of Cochabamba.
Left - Our girls wasted no time on the bus home from Mizque, and created their own comfy beds to sleep in.
Right - The twins Johoselin and Johana sliding down the 'Tobogan' with a mix of glee and terror on their faces.
Left - The girls looking down the slide of death - two of them fearlessly went down right away.
Right - Tyson helping the girls make a campfire during our night in Mina Asientos.
Christmas definitely crept up on us, and the girls worked hard practising the Christmas play and dances which they performed for all of the volunteers and staff on December 24th. December 24th was the big Christmas dinner, which was preceded by the play and followed by presents. Kimber and the tias helped the girls rehearse and put together some great costumes. We had Mary and Joseph, the three wise men, the shepherd, the barn animals and 6 wonderful narrators. Every one had a part to play, and the audience definitely enjoyed the performance. Tia Mariza cooked a mind-blowing meal which left us all a bit too full of food, but full of joy as well.
Left - Nohemi, the youngest of our girls, looking way too cute before the Christmas play.
Right - The narrators performing their lines with smiles.
And then, the much-anticipated PRESENTS! All of the girls got a new toy and new clothes, thanks to the generous donations of Elevation church in Waterloo and the Spanish-Bolivian company Maxam. There were also some exciting group gifts, including some games, a ton of new DVDs, some percussion instruments and a bike! The girls now have three fixed-up bikes to share and have already had a blast riding them around outside. Christmas eve was a relaxing night of movies, chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate, and the girls got to go to bed late and sleep in on Christmas day.
Left - Mary, Joseph and the animals at the scene with Baby Jesus.
Right - The farm animals (including cows, sheep and a chicken) look on, waiting for what comes next.
Left - The tias and girls excitedly listening to the pre-gift speech, ready to check out their new toys.
Right - Abigail is very happy with her stocking and gifts.
We are all looking forward to the New Year and to the last month of vacations! The Photovoice project was at rest for a while, but the girls have now chosen their photos that they want to 'exhibit' in the house for New Years. Stay tuned, because we will be putting up some of the girls' photos online which you can purchase in support of CDP. There is never a dull day and we can only imagine what the new year will bring!
Left - The girls trying out the new snare drum they received as a group gift.
Right - Post-present joy from sisters Sofia and Adriana.
Left - Sofia with one of the students at Calvart, a local English-speaking school who did a gift exchange with our girls.
Right - Karina gratefully receiving her gifts from one of the students.
*All names have been changed to protect the children's privacy.
More photos of all the girls at Corazón del Pastor can be found here.
If you already thought our little ones were cute, check them out all dressed up in Santa hats! Pedacito de Cielo had a very festive atmosphere this past month, and Christmas was extra-special because it was PDC's first Christmas as a children's home. We celebrated with all of the tias, the 10 residents and our daycare kids.
Left - Victoria with a hilariously large fork, ready for Christmas lunch.
Right - Volunteers and kids all set to open presents!
Left - Raeka looking slightly overwhelmed, but happy after all of the unwrapping.
Right - Mateo, content and well-fed on his very first Christmas.
On a Sunday night in mid-December, Paola drove the trufi and took all of the little ones, along with most of the tias and volunteers, to explore the city and see all of the Christmas lights. All of the little ones had their Santa hats and were absolutely fascinated by the lights and all the sights and sounds at night, as the city was getting ready for Christmas time. We spent a lot of time walking through the Plaza Colon and some of our kids got to drive around in remote-control cars. It was neat to see some of our most rambunctious kids completely silent and in awe throughout the evening.
Left - Ximena, one of the daycare regulars, admiring her brand new pink shoes.
Right - Marcos trying out his brand new drum!
Left - Alexis is absolutely thrilled after the big events.
Right - Little Lucas with Tia Vicki, blissfully in awe of the city Christmas lights.
The big celebration at PDC took place on December 23rd, so as not to overlap with CDP. The tias, kids and volunteers somehow all fit into our little kitchen to share a delicious chicken meal. The little ones were dressed up in their new Christmas outfits and while they may not have fully understood the significance of the day, they new it was exciting and special. We all piled in to the playroom to open gifts, and with all of the tias and volunteers every little one had someone to accompany them with all of the unwrapping. Everyone got new shoes and pyjamas, and a toy cellphone in their Christmas boots. The boys got toy drums and the girls special building houses. There were some shared gifts for the house, some new building toys, books, stuffed animals and lots of new rubber balls to play with. The tias and volunteers were definitely as excited as the kids, if not more so! A special thanks goes out to The Freeway Church in Hamilton, Ontario for supporting PDC with the Christmas gifts this year.
Left - Our kids took turns being baby Jesus in the Plaza's nativity. Here is Marcos, looking a bit unsure.
Right - Wide-eyed Guillermo, wondering what exactly he is doing in Jesus' spot.
Left - Manolo looking up, ready to head out in his Santa hat.
Right - The kids playing with their new toys after all the excitement of opening gifts.
In January we are bound to see some more first steps, new words and other encouraging developments. The daycare kids are totally comfortable, and it is exciting to see our babies standing up on their own, growing fast, and learning to engage each other and their surroundings in new ways. To see a special Christmas message from the kids at CDP and PDC, check out this link to download.
Left - Jeanette and Guillermo opening his box of new shoes.
Right - Victoria is very concentrated and careful opening her gifts.
*All names have been changed to protect the children's privacy.
More photos of all the kids at Pedacito de Cielo can be found here.
Above - Two recent photos of our always smiley Vanesa.
Vanesa is 8 years old, almost nine, and is one of three sisters living at our home since May 2007. She has two older brothers who continue to live with her mother in the jungle region of Cochabamba - Chapare. The three girls came to live in Cochabamba when their parents split up and their mother constantly left them alone.
She is very playful and creative, and adjusted well when she moved into the home with her sisters. Vanesa loves to sing and dance, and although she is mischievous she is a great helper when she puts her mind to it. She also loves playing outside and going to the park.
Vanesa's energetic, young spirit definitely encourages the tias and girls around the hogar, and we are working hard to encourage her to stay focused in school and build on the great gifts she has. Vanesa's dream for her life is to enjoy it, and to have fun in everything she does. She is already well on her way to living out her dream.
*Her name has been changed to protect her privacy.
If you would like to sponsor a child like , please go to our website, www.ninosconvalor.org, and click on Sponsor a Child, where you'll learn more about the sponsorship program and have the opportunity to sign up for sponsorship.
If you do not have internet access, or would prefer to send a check, please write our US sponsorship coordinator, Leslie Cooke, at the address given below, and she will send you the sponsorship form (please be sure to include all of your contact information).
Ninos con Valor, Attn: Leslie Cooke
208 Melrose St.
Melrose, MA 02176
Left - Gabriela at PDC, one of our newest volunteers from right here in Bolivia.
Right - Jeanette with Johana and Camila, who are learning their first notes on the piano.
We are excited to have Gabriela working with us a PDC for the next couple of months. We are looking forward to connect with some of the local universities this year, with the hope that we can involve more young Bolivians like Gabriela join our team.
Just before Christmas, we had to say goodbye to Kim, who has been a longterm volunteer at PDC and decided to return home to be with her family. Her absence is already felt at PDC. We miss you, Kim, and thank you for the love and dedication you showed to our little ones.
We are also saying good-bye to two of our volunteers in January, and two more in February. We are so grateful to all they have invested in our kids, and wish them all the best as they step into the next stages of their journey's.
This does mean, however, that we are in desperate need of volunteers. If you are looking for a way to invest your talents in something that will last, and would like to experience the world through a new lens, please get in touch with us.
Remember, there are endless ways to use your skills and passions here with Niños con Valor, and if you are interested in volunteering send an email to email@example.com.
May your New Year's celebrations be riotous fun, and may God and everything good in the world be abundantly present in your lives all of 2010.
Peace and Love from the Kids, Staff and Volunteers of NCV!
Previous NCV newsletters can be found online at http://www.ninosconvalor.org/updates.html