Helping those in dire need - Bolivia
Our children help those affected by forest fires and drought
November 24, 2016 - New Zealand
As we approached Loma Alta, the children looked out the windows and became quiet. “It’s so dry here,” observed one child. “The cows are so thin; there’s no grass for them anymore,” said another girl. “There’s so much smoke and dust,” commented another.
Bolivia is currently in its worst drought in 25 years. Normally the dry season lasts for about a month in eastern Bolivia, but this region has been in a drought for more than two months now, since the rainy season came and went so quickly this year and left such little rain.
On August 20 and 21, 2016, a forest fire burned through parts of Loma Alta, a small town about 40 minutes to the north of Casa Padre Wasson, as well as through other villages in the vicinity. Many families were left homeless, and the threat of fires still affects those who live in that area.
House coordinator Bolívar told the children at lunch on Monday about the incident, and how they could help by donating their extra clothing to those who now have nothing. “We are going to donate whatever excess clothing we have, because there are families and children near us who have lost everything – they only escaped with the clothes on their backs – and now they are in the streets,” he announced at lunch on Monday.
By Tuesday, August 23rd, the children had amassed all the items to be donated. That same afternoon, 13 children, one tío, national director Jaime Soria, our driver, and our communication officer set out to leave a donation of clothing, mattresses, and other essential items that these families will need to begin rebuilding their lives.
“Our children wished to be in solidarity with those who lost their homes,” National Director Jaime Soria commented in Loma Alta.
Afterwards, Melina* reflected on the experience. “I saw that there was great need there due to the fire, and I didn’t mind giving the extra clothes that I had, because the same could happen to us one day.”
The children left their donations at the high school in Loma Alta where the military, firefighters, and social workers were meeting to discuss logistics, make plans for combating the fire, and working to provide necessary shelter for those affected by the fire.
“What we did was good, but I wanted to see and meet the people who had lost their homes in order to personally let them know that we care about them and that we support them,” Mackenson* mentioned on the ride home.
The local Bolivian government has confirmed that more than 60 families – or more than 200 people – became homeless around Santa Rosa and Loma Alta as a result of the fires that are thought to have been caused by lightning and wind storms with gusts reaching 60 mph (95 km/h).
The Bolivian ministry of defense announced that it will use funds from the Social Living Program to reconstruct homes for those affected.
The next day, Myrna* remarked that, “We did something very generous, because no matter to whom the clothing was going, we donated to people who needed it more than us.”
Gilberto, on the other hand, was surprised by the landscape in Loma Alta. “I was shocked that there had been fires burning there for days,” he said. “But what shocked me even more was the amount of clothing we were able to collect and donate in such little time.”
*Names changed for privacy.
Communications Officer, NPH Bolivia