What a trip...
October 24th, 2011
So – that’s it. It’s all over. What a trip. I sat down with David and Andrew just before they disappeared off and we came up with the following highlights. I’ve tried to not fall into the “tired sitcom trap” – there’s been no copying and pasting – and you’ll be pleased to know that most of this is new material!
I have had a fantastic time, but I have found myself constantly challenged and moved by several things that just make me think: “This isn’t right, this isn’t fair. How can this possibly be allowed to go on?”
For instance, meeting the lads that lived on the streets – under a road, totally addicted to glue. It’s been difficult for me to get those boys out of my head. I find myself thinking about them at least once a day, wondering how they’re getting on. David vividly remembers the moment when he saw a teenage girl climbing into the other side of their tunnel, carrying her baby in her arms. Part of me is glad I didn’t quite register this at the time (I was hunting to try and get my camera back) as I just don’t know how I could ever tear that image from my mind.
And what makes it even worse, as David remarked, is that there is real wealth in both Bolivia and Peru. Yet there just doesn’t seem to be the willpower to really redistribute it. Just two minutes down the road from where we met these street-living children was a 200 strong marching band – full of happy teenagers. The contrast was almost too much to bear.
But it would be wrong to think that no-one cares about these children here. We have been constantly blown away by the commitment of the volunteers running the various projects. Christina in Cochabamba who used to live on the street is now rescuing boys from it. Isidora, also from Cochabamba, suffered intense persecution from local interest groups when she set up her project – she was threatened, bullied and wondered whether she could carry on. Yet she didn’t give in and now looks after 90 children. There’s 16-year-old Ana, who walks 30 minutes after school to a project to help younger kids with their schoolwork. And finally, Julia – who directs the refuge – often working 6 or 7 days a week, from the moment the children wake up to when they go to sleep at night.
These people are inspirational, there’s no praise I could give that would be too high for their commitment, passion, and love for these children. We can all learn so much from them.
And this brings me onto the most encouraging moments of the trip. There have been plenty – every time I think I’ve had my heart torn up beyond repair by all this injustice there has been something that has bought me back from the brink. For instance, the dedication and professionalism of the paid staff in each city is humbling. They are the glue in these cities, holding projects together and helping local volunteers turn their passion and commitment into long-term change for children.
And the children – they are a bunch of kids I’ve never been more privileged to meet. There’s the smiles on the faces of the youngsters as they swarm around you, determined that you will play with them. Then you have the sheer big hearted generosity of so many, like at the Cochabamba refuge, where they insisted on giving me their drawings and handicrafts as presents. It’s also impossible not to be impressed by the solemn dedication of the Child Ambassadors – the seriousness with which they take their role and their determination to make a difference. Their joy when they receive a letter from one of their sponsors, and the way they look after other children at the project. And I’ll never forget the street child in the Barcelona t-shirt, the one that made sure I got my camera back. I don’t know how children who have been through things I can barely imagine still have so much love – but they do. They’re simply amazing.
So where do you fit into this? I know a lot of people have been reading these blogs who didn’t know too much about Toybox before. Don’t be overwhelmed, and don’t do nothing. Here’s three easy things you could do to help out these fantastic children.
- Sign up to get our newsletter. We won’t bombard you, but you’ll get news and updates on our work. It’s a really small step, and why not – why wouldn’t you want to get involved in something this fantastic?
- Do a sponsored event! We have various running, cycling and climbing opporuntities which you can browse here, or alternatively pick your own event – tell us and we’ll get you sorted. When you this you not only raise money but you also raise awareness among everyone you pester. Go on, I promise I’ll sponsor you. Email email@example.com for more info.
- Or go the whole hog and sponsor a Child Ambassador! Gonzalo in Cochabamba would love to get more letters and I think you’ll find that it is an incredibly rewarding experience for you too. Click here and start changing someone’s life.
But I want to finish with a huge thank you. To those of you in the UK who donate to Toybox; and to those that volunteer, wherever it is. You are making all of this possible – without your generosity none of this would be happening.
But it’s not just me that wants to thank you; these are the words of 13-year-old Rocio, an incredibly energetic girl who is the Child Ambassador at a project in Oruro. We asked her what she would say if she could speak to a supporter in the UK. Rocio paused before smiling and saying this: “I want people in England to know that they can help children like me and children on the street. They must be very good people because England is so far away but still they help us.”
Thanks for reading,