Thursday, 25 November 2010

Moulding Chronicles November 2010

Dear Friends,

Praise God with us for a positive continuation of Sarah’s pregnancy and the continuing healthy development of our baby. Praise God too for his protection over Ed and Max his work colleague who were involved in a car accident last month.

With all that has gone on over these last two months, some days it has been hard to get through from one to the next, however, we praise God for his sustaining Grace and the opportunities to sit back and reflect on what was going on and how things could be improved in the future.

This last month Ed was able to travel to a new area in Bolivia to see current FH projects and look for opportunities for new ones. He was encouraged by what he saw, seeing how FH is changing lives in a positive way.

Over the last 2 years Jose has been involved in a project to improve the production and storage of maize. One aspect has been in the selection of grains suitable for seeds. This involves marking the plants with 2 or more cobs so that the best cobs can be set apart at harvest time and maintained for seed for the next year. Traditionally it was stored in the loft of the family home, where rats and insects would eat and destroy it, reducing both the quality and quantity.

As part of the project Jose was encouraged to make his own sacrificial contribution towards the creation of better storage facilities, through providing some finances and by collecting locally available resources. By being actively involved in the whole process he was able to better understand the value of what he had created and thus take care of it.

The result of this work with Jose has meant a 200% increase in income for the maize he produces, but the changes go beyond that, he is proud of what he has done and his mind has been opened up to other possibilities. This story is a testimony to the FH technicians who have worked with Jose and 15 other families in Torotoro and the grace of God within their lives.

We feel very privilege to be in some way a part of this process of change in peoples lives, and we thank you too for also being a part of making it happen through supporting us.

Thank God for:

  • Our growing baby
  • Continued health and safety
  • A good kinder for Alana to attend
  • Oscars improving health

Ask God for:

  • Good times of rest and relaxation over Christmas
  • Accommodation to be finalized for next year
  • Maintaining a healthy work/life balance

Much Love

Ed, Sarah & Alana

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Visit to Torotoro

This month Ed had the opportunity to go and visit Torotoro in the northern most province of the department of Potosí, an area that he had not been to before. He went there with 3 other colleagues from the La Paz office for two reasons, firstly to do a supervision of an Economic Development project that FH is doing there with funding from USDA and also to talk with the team working there and the local government authorities to gather ideas for a proposal for further work in this area.

Wednesday night Ed took the overnight bus with Mauricio from La Paz to Cochabamba (7 hours). They arrived in Cochabamba at 05:30 on Thursday and then were collected by an FH vehicle for a further 3 hour drive to their first site visit. At this first site, Sucusuma, they looked at an irrigation canal that FH had been repairing for the community as well as some of the large water storage tanks (50,000 litre) that FH had helped to build, filled with water diverted from the river. From there they went to visit a couple of families who were using the irrigation system for their Maize crops.

The families demonstrated their sprinkler systems whilst the team enjoyed a cooling off in the water and tried out some of the locally produced lemons straight off the tree from the families orchard (I never knew that lemons trees had spines on them!).

Another of the families the team visited had successfully established their own vegetable garden which they had done off of their own backs. This was a very positive sign of progress as it is normally very unusual for Bolivians to grow vegetables, particularly when the focus is for personal family consumption.

From there the team visited another storage tank. Tradition has it that when you first visit Torotoro you have jump into one of these storage tanks. Ed and Mauricio (also on his first trip to Torotoro) were not too convinced by the idea, so their “loving” colleagues took hold of them and drenched them with water instead, which was actually quite nice as it was a very hot day.

After lunch the team went to see some of the silos (storage houses) this project has also helped to create. Ed was really struck by the changes seen in Jose one of the participants of the project. Jose has been in the project for 2 years, over which time the technicians have taught him how to improve his farming methods and how to select the best plants to choose for seeds for the following year. Part of this includes his mother walking among the maize tying ribbon around the plants that have 2 or 3 cobs on them so that at harvest time these cobs can be separated for the use of seeds in the following year. Another part of this project has been to help Jose to improve the storage of his maize before he sells it. He used to just store it in the loft of his house were rats and insects would eat and defecate on it, as well as other maize being degraded through disease. This meant that when the time came to sell it, both the quantity and quality of the maize was severely reduced.

As a way in which to encourage Jose to take pride in his work and to take care of his new facilities, FH did not just give Jose a new storage house and metal silos for his maize, he had to make personal sacrifices to help him understand the value of these things and to ensure that he was willing to look after them in the future. It has been seen in so many occasions where things have just been given to a person at no personal cost to themselves, that there is no value in the object and as a result the things are not looked after or maintained. It also does not help people to understand that they themselves can bring about a positive change in their own lives (this is a concept that is particularly counter-cultural to people here in Bolivia who strongly believe in fate and that they are not able to change anything).

Therefore, Jose had to complete 4 pre-requisites before FH began to work with him on his storage house; 1. He had to put in 1,200 Bolivianos (£106.90) as his match funding to pay for the storage house, which in total costs 28,000 Bolivianos (£2494.47); 2. He had to be willing to collect local materials of sand, rock, straw and wood for the construction; 3. He had to be growing maize and 4; He had to be part of the association that buys maize from farmers to transform it into other products.

When he has agreed to these things and had given FH his match funding the FH technicians worked alongside Jose to help him build his storage house. It took them a month to do and was a lot of hard work as he lives in an isolated area and had to carry all the sand and rocks up from the river below his house. As a result of working with Jose in this way he has been able to increase the value of his maize from 20 – 60 Bolivianos (£1.78 - £5.34) per aroba (11.5Kg) so about a 200% increase. He is proud of what he has done and his mind has been opened up to other possibilities, that he can continue to increase his maize production and that he can also improve his home as well.

This story is a testimony to the FH technicians that have been with working with Jose and 15 other families in Torotoro. The Technicians work away from their families for about 10 days at a time to help these families in these difficult rural areas of Bolivia to begin to break out of poverty.

In the evening the team met with the entire FH Torotoro team to begin to gather ideas from them about what themes could be put into the proposal we had come to work on. They proposed some good ideas. The next day the team met with the local mayor and his officials to find out what they saw as the needs within the municipality of Tortoro.

After lunch they began the journey homeward, with a 4 hour drive back to Cochabamba and then the 7 hour bus ride back to La Paz, finally arriving home at 05:00am to sleep a little before celebrating Sarah’s birthday with friends the next day.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Castillo del loro

Bolivia is certainly a country of much diversity, both in terms of its cultures and people groups but also in its wide variety of flora and fauna. In just a short journey of 2 hours heading up out of La Paz and down into Las Yungas all of your senses can become engaged as you see, hear and feel the changes as you gradually descend in altitude.

From Villa Fatima, you can either opt for a bus or more comfortable transport in a private or shared taxi. Once loaded, you first begin to wind your way up and out of La Paz, through a more peri urban area of the city. As you leave the city behind you begin the steady crawl upwards into the mountains in order to reach the pass so that you can begin your descent. As you climb further up you can feel the air getting chillier and thinner, leaving you hoping that it wont take long to reach the pass. It is a relief to reach the top marked by a small deserted lake, save for a small number gulls (who seem to be able to get everywhere!).

From the lake you can then begin your steady descent down into Las Yungas. At the top the landscape is very bare and barren, with rock faces exposed to the elements with some covered in snow and ice. As you begin to descend, you can begin to see small amounts of grass appearing and moss begins to cover some of the jagged rock faces, as you descend further the grasses begin to get longer, and the occasional flower can be seen along with a small shrubby bush or two. Further still, the shrubby bushes become larger and trees begin to appear along with more colourful flowers. Finally you descend to the lower regions where banana trees can be seen along with fox gloves and multicoloured hygrengias.

During the descent the temperature gets considerably warmer, and the air richer with oxygen. The noises also increase as you begin to hear the birds chattering, and the insects buzzing.

On one such trip down to Las Yungas, we spent some days staying at the Castillo del Loro (Castle of the Parrot). Sadly the hotel was a bit of a disappointment, whilst it looked beautiful, it had fallen into somewhat disrepair. The castle had been built back in the 1930's by paraguian prisoners for one of Bolivias many presidents. In an attempt to try and make a visitors stay more authentic the owners had decided to try and keep the place looking pretty much as it did when it was built, by keeping in use much of the old furniture. However, in doing so they seem to have neglected the need for renovations and upkeep. The majority of the relics to be seen lying about the place are quite literally falling apart, from the bedroom furniture to other random pieces of furnture lying about the place. The bulding itself could also have done with some serious repairs as much of the woodwork was rotten.

We discovered a more serious need of repair in our bedroom on our last morning. All that night it had been raining quite hard, by the morning we were surround by a number of puddles dotted about our room (which was on the 3rd floor), which would explain the seriously damp smell about the place.

Despite the arquitecteral issues, we were kept well fed with two full 3 course meals a day, though by the end of 5 days with soup twice a day, the novelty had somewhat worn off. The location was also quite beautiful and we all very much enjoyed our time being out of doors in a semi tropical environment, surrounded by beautiful butterflies displaying a whole range of colours, and of course the rivers. The hotel was situated at the convergence of two rivers, one cascading down alongside the hotel and the other running below it. Each day we enjoyed exploring different parts of the rivers and had fun just watching the wildlife and throwing stones into the river.

An environment such a world a part from where we live just 2 hours away in La Paz.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The zebras of La paz

High up in the andes in the city of La Paz, is probably the one place you would least expect to see Zebras walking about, and yet here we have quite a large population, gathering in the plazas, and on the street corners, either in herds of about 20, or just in ones or twos
Of course I am not talking about the live 4 legged creatures from Africa, but rather people dressed up as Zebras and even the occasional donkey. They are all a part of a campaign that has now been running for a number of years, that involves educating people as to how to safely cross a busy road, as well as educating and encouraging drivers to actually stop at red lights. In England we have the green cross code man, and the lollipop men and ladies, here in La Paz we have Zebras.

They normally position themselves at busy junction and animatedly wave the traffic on through until the lights turn to red. They then halt the traffic and wave the pedestrians across the road until the lights change again.

The role of the donkey is a little different as they seek to highlight to stupidity of some peoples efforts to cross the road when traffic is moving, they do so by running after them and grabbing hold of them and explaining how the person is acting just like themselves, a donkey!

It is a surprisingly effective campaign, with the number of accidents being significantly reduced since their introduction. They have also become local celebrities, and a tourist attraction as both locals and visitors like to have their photos taken with them. However, I don't think its an idea that would catch on very quickly in the streets of London!