Caroline arrived in Bolivia with many thoughts in her mind; she wanted to meet her sponsored child, María Luisa, for the first time. The four hour trip from La Paz to Maria Luisa’s community helped Caroline to see landscape but also the hard life in the field. Families from Bolivia’s rural areas face many struggles daily. “I did some research about the country and weather, but I wasn’t prepared for this.”
The dirt road continues in for a great distance until it reaches small houses with mud walls and thatched roofs, all of them silent because their inhabitants are now in the fields taking care of the cattle or their crops. Finally Caroline arrives Maria Luisa’s class room, where other 10 girls from different ages wait at the door with their teacher. María Luisa and Caroline look each other and smile shyly, they hug and say hello in Spanish and French.
María Luisa is four and a half years old and goes to pre-school. In her classroom there are other girls and boys who are in other grades with the same teacher for all of them. After school, María Luisa usually walks about 2 miles back home. She lives with her parents and siblings. Pastora, her mother, takes care of the family, grazes their sheep and cows. Toribio, her father, grow potatoes and quinoa. “That is the only thing we can grow. We don’t have enough water to grow vegetables or grains.”
Carolina feels flattered when she is asked to sit at the table with the family; María Luisa and 2 small sisters are with her. Pastora serves quinoa with homemade cheese, “This is p’esque, please serve yourself” she says. Although quinoa is a nutritious meal, the family can have only this. They can rarely eat meat of vegetables. Pastora’s youngest baby sleeps nn her back while the family begins talking to Caroline with the help of an interpreter about country life, work hazards, the family activities and María Luisa’s future. They are also interested in Carolines’ life, about her family and job. Friendship begins to grow during the meal.
María Luisa’s younger sisters also attend the Early Childhood Development center run by ChildFund’s Local Partner “Churupata”. This center nurses children under 5 from 20 distant communities in the area. It is operated by mothers guides with ChildFund technical support. Caroline had the chance to visit the center during mealtime and helped the mother guide with cooking and serving children, of course, quinoa is the main ingredient. Next to the center is the school where María Luisa’s older sister attends; she goes every day riding her bike 3 miles from home. Other children ride the bike for about 40 to 90 minutes to go to the school and María Luisa will do the same when she grows enough to go to.
The family had some time to walk with Caroline and see their cows. “We drink the milk from our cows. When they grow we can sell them or, with some luck, have calves” says Toribio. Caroline feels this trip has opened her eyes to another kind of life, she promises to return some day, “maybe with my parents. They would love to meet your family too ”she promises to Pastora in front of the small house during the last minutes. It is time to say goodbye, “Thanks for your visit Caroline”, says María Luisa. Now she doesn’t feel shy and hugs her strongly, maybe both are thinking “I would like to see you again someday.”