Un Cachito de la vida

Un Cachito

Un Cachito de la vida - A little piece of Cameron's life

I wasn't planning on blogging much while I'm on the trip, but I had an experience in Oruro, Bolivia I had to mention. I realize this post is long, but I'm trying to do paint the picture of what was an amazing day.First of all I'll start out by explaining that I had thought multiple times that perhaps it was a mistake to come all the way to Bolivia just to see Karen, a girl I've sponsored with Save The Children for a few years. She lives in Oruro, Bolivia and it was pretty out of the way and cost a fair bit of money to get there. Our agenda for the visit basically said we'd be visiting the STC office in La Paz, and then the STC offices in Oruro, see the school the child attends, and visit with her family. It sounded nice, but nothing incredible. It was incredible.So after breakfast at the hotel in La Paz, we went to the STC offices in Oruro (that from the outside don't even look like offices). There we met Augusto, the director of STC for the Oruro area. He spoke English and Spanish and was a pretty nice guy. He gave us a tour of the offices, including the different programs offered and then had us speak with the office of Patrocinios - the office that handles the sponsors for the children. In Oruro, they have some 20 schools involved in sponsorships and some 5700 sponsored children, in addition to another 1200 or so that are awaiting sponsors. They showed us the files they have for every child, including all the correspondance between Karen and me - letting me know I need to write more :(. Then we went to Ferroviaria - the primary school Karen attends, which consists of grades preschool - 8th grade.That's where the day turned incredible. First of all, we met with the principal of the school, who told us about the school, it's history and what they're trying to do. I also met Karen for the first time. She was understandably a little shy, but a cute 10-yr-old girl who seemed happy to be there. I talked to her a little as we began to tour the school, and she seemed eager to answer my questions. We saw the library, consisting of some tables and shelves of books, all possible thanks to STC. There were some 7th graders in there studying language. We then went and saw a preschool classroom and a computer lab where a bunch of 7th graders were working with Excel. I tried to say loudly that it's a very useful and important program to learn. :) Again, these facilities were due to STC. As we came out of one of the buildings, I could hear some kids voices singing but didn't think much of it until a lady came up to me with a piece of paper folded in 4 parts that was a printed program for the "Visita del Patrocinador Cameron Harr" (Visit of the sponsor Cameron Harr). Inside was a little program agenda for me. I thought it was nice, but to be honest, I didn't know what it was about and didn't think much of it. And then they took me into the auditorium. That's when my eyes stared to get real big. The place was packed with all the kids from grades preschool to grade 5 - probably around 600-700 kids. There were a couple teachers up front directing the kids and on the side there were bleachers with kids in yellow tops who were the chorus. They were all there to celebrate me and my visit. I was stunned. On a side note, apparently they thought I was going to be a woman, but I assured Agusto I was a man. :) Anyway, first, a boy got up and gave a memorized introduction and personalized welcome to me from on stage. Then an adult with a guitar and a boy got up and the boy belted out some songs. During one of the songs, one of the teachers came up to me and pulled me up front to dance. I wish I could say the dancing came naturally to me, but I can't - I don't dance. I can say though that I danced in my hiking boots without shame and had some fun, twirling and moving around. Music and dance is something very integral to the Bolivian people. At any rate, next a couple of the teachers played a drum and traditional flute set while the chorus sang a couple songs, one in Quechua. To emphasize the previous point, a darling little girl (maybe 4 or 5) came up to me and wanted me to dance so I danced with her in front of everyone. After the chorus, Karen got up and presented me with half a dozen roses. I stepped up on stage (which is a 3-4 foot step) and with my head about to hit the ceiling, I got some good gasps of delight from the children. After accepting the roses, they gave me the opportunity to say something, which I readily took, and sincerely thanked everyone as best I could (multilple times and in different ways). I think it went over well. I didn't break down or anything, but was overcome with gratefulness. Karen then enthusiastically and artfully recited from memory a poem. Next, another child got up and sang some other enthusiastic songs. This time, an impossibly cute little girl (again, maybe 4-5) pulled me up to dance, which I did, trying to crouch down a little at the same time. I was also starting to get winded by now, given the altitude of some 13K or so feet! At some point some cute little girl came out and did quite the dance to an energetic song and then finally, there was another song and it was over. But the experience wasn't. One of the teachers suggested I get a picture with the chorus, so I went over and was completely mobbed by the kids. It was incredible. They were all over me and all wanted to be in the photo and to be touching me. We took a bunch of other pics and then went outside where I was greeted by more kids who wanted my autograph, and then even more. Me, and then Josh, became mobbed by kids wanting our autographs. The teachers kept trying to break them up, but they were persistant. I was blown away to say the least. You'd think I was a rock star! Anyway, from there, we went and met the teachers - all women - and had a small snack (empanada with Coke) and talked a little. They, like most of the women, wanted to know if I/we were single and became pretty excited when I said we were both single. Then they started a bunch of "woman talk" about wanting to come with us and other stuff that I didn't all understand. It was pretty funny though. The teachers seemed to be in as much awe almost as the kids were. But from there, we went and visited Karen's 5th grade class where a bunch of the kids greeted me (very nicely!). I also told them to welcome Josh and encourage him to be a sponsor too - which they readily did :). We asked them if they wanted to take a picture, and they exploded in affirmation. So we went outside and took some pics and then they mobbed Josh and I again with requests for autographs but also for our email and web site (since Agusto had mentioned we were going to put up a website). Smart kids. After I gave out my email however, I was informed that direct communication is not permitted (but also that they've never seen the kids ask for it before). So I went back to just signing autographs. Again, it was crazy, but fun.After that, we left the school and went to lunch at a good but "expensive" lamb restaurant. My enormous meal cost about $6-7 bucks (but expensive for them). Again; Incredible. From there, we went back to the STC offices and met Karen and her mother there and presented them with the gifts we had gotten them (story books, stickers, coloring books, candy and a digital jump rope). They were delighted. The mother was great and was pretty excited to be there and wanted to know all about me and where I lived. She also wanted direct communication, but we had to tell her that wasn't permitted and why (to protect the children). From there, we took a little field trip with the director of the STC Adolescent program "Making Choices" to the health center. There, several young adults told us about what they do and how they are creating a new organization to educate all about health care and such. It was neat to see their enthusiasm and the benefit they are to the community.And that was my incredible day. I can't do it justice, but you can read a bit more about the STC side of things over here at Josh's blog. There are also pictures you really should see to get a better feel for it.

Posted by charr at 2:13 PM

Reader Comments

That's awesome! It's great to see how they use the money, because I worry that money I donate won't be used appropriately. After hearing how well they use the funds, I'm going to look into sponsoring a child as well.

Posted by dan at September 24, 2007 10:50 PM

Yeah, STC is excellent. Hopefully you saw their rating at CharityNavigator. I've stopped supporting some charities after seeing poor ratings there, but STC is one of the best. Also, the money you give all goes into a pool for the all the kids in an impact area, but you have a specific face you can put to your money as well. It's pretty nice. I've learned a lot of other stuff about how STC runs and it's all good (just too much to write about). Ask if you have questions.

Posted by Cameron at September 25, 2007 2:46 AM

Sounds like you're having a blast- I'm envious.

Posted by Tak at September 25, 2007 11:30 PM

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