OUR FIRST STEPS TOWARD OUR FUTURE

Bolivian youth are changing the way of thinking in a new business. 62 youth were part of an innovating project funded by Barnfonden to help them to create and develop their own business plan.

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THE BEGINNING

Oruro is a small town located in the Bolivian southern side, last century the region had its golden era with mine activities but today most of its populations work with formal and informal commerce, due to the near Chilean border, this is the main economic activity. Youth in this town look for an income source to help their family but the lack of knowledge about basic business management is an obstacle. “There are courses about this but they are expensive”, tells Alvaro Vargas, ´Estrella del Sur´ program coordinator, “enrolled youth can´t afford them and their future is unknown. With this opportunity we can give a hand to great youth ideas.”

ChildFund Bolivia and Barnfonden from Sweden developed a project to help these girls and boys with free technical and financial instruction about business development, “we must help our families, this is a great opportunity because they give us technical training, and also materials are free. Of course we must compromise our time and commitment to complete the course and create our small business” says Diego, one of the youth entrepreneurs.

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THE PROCESS

This project had different steps: 62 girls and boys were selected by their ideas and commitment, each one with a business idea. There were chefs, artisans and engineers who trained them and helped to develop that primal idea. Then, they also learned about business image and marketing; of course finance managing took part in training too. “These boys and girls are an example for us. I know many of them since their first years. There is hidden genius among us” tells Isabel Mamani, ‘Jesús de Nazaret’ Project coordinator. “they learned about finance and numbers very fast. Suddenly they were able to calculate costs and benefits,” tells very happy.

“It is amazing how these young boys and girls have unique ideas”, tells, Mayra Andrade, chef in charge of baking courses. “They have huge expectations, and the most interesting is their age: fourteen, sixteen year-old boys but with big dreams.”

Finally, after 9 months of technical training, they can proudly present their ideas to the public. They managed to have an exposition in the local government hall. That morning investors and local authorities visited every stand where girls and boys explained their ideas.

THE RESULT

That day, eight projects were selected by different investors and other 42 are in a promising negotiating process. That new experience for all youth entrepreneurs was also a value lesson. “I feel I am a winner,” says Max, he is 16 and created an electrical repair services business, “despite I get an investment today or later, or if I must re think my idea, I know I can reach my goal now because learned how to improve my ideas.”

What comes next? Every project selected by an investor must prove it works; the other ones must improve some weak points to get investments too. Oruro might look as a small city but it is full of gigantic ideas for sure.

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What does play means for these children?

The sun shines this Sunday and around 50 boys and girls play in a soccer field. Small groups guided by a monitor perform different games, laughter and happy faces surround us. We ask some of the children: What are you up to? Their immediate answer is: we are learning!

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Students from ‘Mejillones’ middle school

This is a new method applied by Local partner ‘Renovación Madre Niño’ and other three Organizations in Oruro. It is called JuGAR, (PLAY in Spanish) focused on the development of physical and social abilities with children and teenagers. We had the chance to talk with Osmar Ramirez, a Youth club staff person in Oruro about it.

“While children play, they strengthen other abilities: leadership, self-esteem, teamwork, communication, conflict management… the list is long, but they have fun and learn about these important abilities” he tells us. “We identified that children live with different types of violence at home, in the school and their neighborhoods. We want to teach them about it and how to prevent these problems, how to talk about their Rights and live with empathy and resilience.”

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Osmar with a group explains game rules

Although these might be concepts that are hard to apply, this method helps children and youth to understand them. Every game has three steps: Theory, action and rethinking. “We explain to children the rules before the game, then we play and later, as a group, we meditate about the game and attitudes to incorporate other concepts,” explains Osmar. “This is a useful tool and we can use it with children from 8 to 18 years old because they love to run, jump, and play in the field. A couple of months ago we had a great experience with 175 children under 12 and everything was perfect.”

But what does JuGAR means? Juego (game) / Globalidad (globality) / Actitud (attitude) / Reflexión (reflection).

Juego (game): Create a playing environment, then it is a pleasant environment for positive learning.

 Globalidad (globality): There should be a multi-dimensional approach: motor, cognitive, affective and social.

 Actitud (attitude): The person in charge, (teacher, coach, technician), must have a dynamic, enthusiastic and positive attitude to make sure their students have fun and learn key concepts easily.

Reflexión (reflection): Children are active protagonists in the activity and learn through discovering and reflection.

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“In 2017 we want to train Sport teachers, then, they can apply our JuGAR method at the school” says Osmar. Right now though he must say good bye because another group is ready to play and learn this Sunday.

A beautiful landscape

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Kimberly visiting rural areas in Oruro

Kimberly is 16 and lives in Oruro with her family near a hill called “Rooster’s Claw”. Every day she must walk carefully the old stone stairs to go downtown. At night she must climb the stairs again. Despite this climb she feels happy living there just because a few blocks up, at the top of the hill stands one of the most important monuments in Oruro, the big statue representing Mary,  Christ’s mother and patroness of the city. This religious monument is visited by many people, national and international tourist every year; February and March are the highest seasons due to one of the biggest religious parties in Bolivia, Carnival.

“I love going out with my family to visit Mary’s monument, we have a marvelous landscape view from the city; especially at night.” Kimberly lives with her 3 younger siblings and her parents. “My mom is housewife, we study and my dad works. I will graduate from high school soon and I would like to learn some occupation because I’d like to help with my family’s economy too.” Unfortunately, the situation for teenage workers is not very good in Bolivia. Many of them wish to learn a technical ability but they lack the resources to do so.

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The group visiting one of the archeological places in Oruro

ChildFund’s Local Partner in Oruro, Estrella del Sur, developed an entrepreneurship program with youth in 2015. Fourteen teenagers signed up to learn how to be a tour guide. “Oruro has a huge potential as a touristic destination” tells Alvaro Vargas, Estrella del Sur’ Program Coordinator, “Especially during Carnival season, Oruro also has many touristic places to visit and enjoy.” These youth learned about tourism, Oruro’s history, the region’s legends and tales for 8 weeks.  After the training, Kimberly and her friends will be able to associate and offer tours, earn their own money and improve their lives.

“They taught us many things, even simple details as talking in front of the public, manage stage fright, talk properly… I was very shy and they helped me a lot,” tells Kimberly smiling. “Besides, I had the chance to visit beautiful places I didn’t know in my city.”

Kimberly and her friends created now their own organization, “Jóvenes guías turísticos”, and are preparing a business plan and searching for alliances with the local government.

“Now I can work as a tour guide, earn some money and help my family” tells Kimberly as we climb the last stairs up to the Virgin monument. “And of course, show the entire world this beautiful landscape.”

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Night view of Oruro’s monument with blue light

Our firts steps with entrepeneurship

Jaime is 15 and lives in Oruro, one of the main cities in the southwestern side of Bolivia. Jaime is part of JORFEOR, a local youth goldsmith organization created with the help of ChildFund Bolivia and its Local Partner “Renovación Madre niño”. This small organization reunites sponsored and enrolled youth in Oruro.

 From November 20th to 29th, 2015 these youth attended Expoteco, the main commercial fair in Oruro, to sell the handmade jewelry and generate business with other buyers. We visited the stand and interviewed Jaime about this new experience.

 

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Jaime, (wearing the white jacket) selling at EXPOTECO

How do you feel about this experience? 

 I feel happy and excited. When I was chosen to attend the fair I was astonished. I have some experience selling things. I help my mom selling in the market since I was 7 years old.

During the first days at EXPOTECO I felt intimidated. There were a lot of people; some of them were big business men and business owners. We were just kids, but despite this fear we were able to talk with people, with customers and other business people. It was a challenge and we had to face it. Besides, this jewelry was made by our hands and this gave us confidence.

 

Were you prepared for this experience?

I had some experience as salesperson, this was some helpful. However this was a different kind of audience. People had more money and wanted good quality products. I realized I needed more experience on selling, talking and convincing people to buy my products.

 

What were you expecting for?

Well, my products were engagement rings, but somewhat of them were too big or too small for the customer’s fingers. I also learned a lot about planning and preparedness for selling. I feel confident because I also have a lot of requests and business intentions.

Our group sold about 35 items; we made some business contacts and our brand “ARCANGEL JOYAS” became known by others. At the end we started to enjoy the business movement and organization. In the future I would like to study Business Administration or create my own company.

 

Would you change something if you had the opportunity?

Well, one important thing is to work full-time in the stand. Since I am still attending school I worked at the stand just half time.

It is necessary to have more rings, for different finger sizes and different models. Now I know which ones people want and which are their favorites.

I realize it is also important to have a printed catalog, business cards and merchandising material.

I would also like to learn other goldsmith techniques and about selling strategies.  Of course, we want to sell more.

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Members of ARCANGEL JOYAS at the fair.

Sponsorship and Raquel’s Silver Lining

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Raquel displays some of the silver products she has made.

 Raquel, 19, is a young leader in her Bolivian community. We asked her to tell us about her sponsorship experience, what she’s up to now and her career plans. 

How would you describe your friendship with your sponsor?

I have a beautiful relationship with my sponsor. She tells me about her country and sends me pictures with beautiful landscapes, places where she goes with her family. She also tells me about her daily life and how she worries about me and my family. I love when she sends postcards.

 

What have you learned from your sponsor?

My sponsor is consistent about writing; we keep in touch often, and we know what is going on in each other’s lives. I learned a lot about the value of friendship with her. I think she is my best friend because she has taught me a lot about other places, about respect for the family. Her letters are written in a simple way but tell me a lot. I know she thinks about me all the time.

Tell me about the new activity you’re doing now.

The local partner in my community started a silversmith training program, and I was curious about how to work with silver and make a ring myself. The day I made my first ring, I was very happy and proud. I continued making other small pieces of jewelry, first during my free time, and now I am part of a small association.

Now that you have learned this skill, do you have future plans?

I would like to own a business, making jewelry with my own style. I would also like to teach other youth to make rings, earrings and many more things. Of course, I would also like to learn more about this art.

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Raquel is a sponsored girl She is now part of the Silversmith Program in Local Partner “Renovación Madre Niño” in Oruro, Bolivia. Caption: Raquel (center).

 I understand you are the association’s president. How do you feel about holding this position?

Well, all of my friends and partners elected me. They told me I am a responsible, dynamic and good friend, and they trusted me.

Now we run our association by ourselves. All of us are youth, and we learn something new every day. I know this is a big responsibility. All of us want to strengthen our small association.

What is your biggest challenge and biggest triumph?

My biggest challenge is to find the time to keep up with this new responsibility and stay on time. We want to build our own brand — not only a logo but an identity. We would like to be known in Oruro and throughout Bolivia.

My main satisfaction is to see us grow as people, both as silversmiths and as friends. Being at the silversmith workshop is fun. We all are friends and take care each other.