Dear Bolivia blog readers
On the second day, we started out at 6 a.m. on the dot for the Bolivian plateau. The party included Richard Haep, Director of Caritas Schweiz in Bolivia and Rubén Araujo, Director of Caritas Corocoro and his team. These Caritas partner organizations have many years of experience in the construction of water systems and community development. As part of this work, they are helping 12 communities in the Sapahaqui and Patacamaya districts to have access to clean drinking water. GF’s Clean Water Foundation is supporting these organizations’ projects. To gain insight into local living conditions and the work of Caritas, they arranged for us to visit three of these 12 communities.
After just under four hours’ travel, we reached Ocuire, the first of the three communities. The little village with some 100 inhabitants only recently got access to clean drinking water. When we got out of the coach, we were welcomed by the whole village, with beaming faces, music and homemade crowns of flowers, herbs and vegetables. This was a reception none of us could have dreamed of, and an experience we will never forget. But see for yourself:
This was followed by gifts. We brought balls and frisbees for the village children, and a traditional Swiss cowbell and (naturally) Swiss chocolate for the adults. After this, we split into four groups and talked to the villagers about their living conditions and the changes that the new water system is bringing. The GF apprentices had prepared questions for the inhabitants during their Spanish lessons.
“Almost all of our problems have been solved with access to clean drinking water,” explains Edi, an inhabitant of Ocuire. Previously, they had to bring water to the village from the nearest spring. This meant that young and old had to carry heavy containers of water over the rough paths. They explained that the water was often dirty, frequently causing diseases. Meanwhile, several of us visited the newly constructed water installation. But we weren’t the only ones with questions – the inhabitants of Ocuire wanted to know more about “our country”, Switzerland.
At the lunch the villagers had prepared for us to share, we were able to try out regional specialties. Although it was clear that our group wasn’t ready to leave the peace of Ocuire, we moved on shortly after lunch to Macamaca, the second community on our trip.
We were warmly welcomed again by the inhabitants of Macamaca at the village square, and gifts were exchanged. Thanks to the work of Caritas Corcoro, Macamaca has had a functioning water network for several years, with household connections. They have also set up a Water Committee, which meets monthly to discuss and develop projects relating to water.
Our group again had time to talk to inhabitants about their living conditions and ask questions. Maximiliano is the chair of the Water Committee and took us to his house, where he lives with his family of eight. He told us that they formerly had to bring water from Caracato, which is a 20-minute drive away, and that the installation of the water system had brought great changes to the villagers’ lives.
Meanwhile, Anna and the female apprentices in the group talked to the women of the village. The Bolivian women told us that they very much want their children to move to the city later in order to study. They explained that work in the village is very hard and there are few prospects. People here live primarily from agriculture. They also explained that many women in Bolivia suffer from domestic violence. They are convinced that Swiss women are treated better.
We took our leave and went on to Caracato. After a brief and adventurous trip, we reached the third and last community on our list at around 6 p.m. Read our next blog post to find out why we needed not only our knowledge of Spanish but also physical stamina and creativity here!
Do you want to see more pictures of our experiences in Ocuire and Macamaca? No problem! Have a look at the picture gallery.