Amigos de Sucre

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Archive for October, 2007

Child workers in Bolivia

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Having reported on the abandoned children last week, it reminded me of the children that I saw in Bolivia working themselves to earn extra money for their families.

Before I went to Bolivia I was given the following advice: support the children that are earning their money honestly, as it motivates them to stay out of crime or begging.

It’s certainly true that having your shoes cleaned on a street corner will not really cost you much be German standards (more probably now than then). In Sucre I don’t remember so many children working in that business, that was something I encountered more in La Paz and Cochabamba. However, there were children working as guides at the cemetery.

For a small fee, they would show you around and point out the graves of important people. In fact, they had an extensive working knowledge of the layout and history of the cemetery.

In La Paz I did, once, have my shoes cleaned by a young boy. Actually they were my hike boots and needed it after the dust of Potosí! He worked so carefully – at one stage he picked up a tin of black shoe polish and I pointed out that my boots were brown. “No”, he replied, and pointed out that the bottom rim was indeed black and he proceeded to polish this from all sides with a thinner brush.

When he was finished my boots shone and I was prepared to pay more than the going rate, well a little bit at least to show my appreciation. Anything over the top and he might have taken offence to it.

Unfortunately he didn’t want to accept my dollar coin – he wanted a dollar bill, or the equivalent in Bolivianos. In fact, he preferred Bolivianos as was working as part of a group and had to divide up his earnings with the rest.

For me it was not easy to accept a child cleaning my shoes – it is the sort of thing that you would discourage in Germany, although many years ago in the UK it is the sort of thing the Scouts would have done in Job Week.

But by the time I was in La Paz, I had visited several institutions in the country and had learnt about some of the social structures. Often, these children are allowed to go to school for half a day in return for going out to work the other half. Either they earning their school fees, or a charity will pay the school fees in return for the parents accepting this form of deal.

If the children do not earn enough, the risk is that the parents will pull out of the deal and the children will no longer be allowed to go to school. Even worse, they may end up begging on the streets or even earning their money in less legal ways.

The child that cleaned my shoes and his friends seemed very cheerful – there were no adults with them putting pressure on them. They found their customers themselves and looked after them from beginning to end. Their earnings, although fairly shared out amongst the group, were not landing in the pocket of some overseer.

If your normal image of children working is of making clothes in illegal factories in Asia or even of boys sweeping chimneys in Victorian England – then this is no comparison.

Obviously it would be better for their education to be in school full time and not worrying about the family income, but as it is this is probably a reasonable compromise.

Sucre video tour

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

I found this video on YouTube. It shows the sights of Sucre, such as the white colonial-style buildings and churches, as well as some of the typical streets. There are children in school uniform, and views of some of the many smaller parks.

Later the video shows an evening scene at the main plaza, as well as walls of tombs in the graveyard.

Finally there is a short recording in a taxi. Here you can see how the car has been modified from right- to left-hand-drive. The speedometer is clearly visible on the right of the car, although the stearing wheel is now on the left.

Bolivia’s abandoned children

Friday, October 26th, 2007

The BBC Radio 4 programme “From Our Own Correspondent” features reports from BBC reporters around the World. Last week, Bolivia was featured. The article shows the other side to the immigration problems that are often discussed in Europe.

It talks about the children, left behind in Bolivia bei their parents while they go to work in Europe. The children stay with relatives, and talk to their parents on the telephone using the public phone-booths, common to Bolivian towns. The parents send home money for them, but this often gets intercepted by other adults.

The full story and can be read and heard on the BBC News website.

The airport in Sucre

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

The airport in Sucre (SRE) is located outside the city. It is not equipped for international flights and only has a basic terminal building and runway. The runway can only be used in the daytime as there are no landing lights. I travelled there from Santa Cruz in a Boeing 727 from Lloyd Aero Boliviano (LAB).

The picture shows the airport looking back from the car park. Our luggage was just being loaded onto the buses at this particular moment.

LAB are currently not flying to Sucre because of operating difficulties.

I have heard stories about cars, in particular taxis, being driven to the airport and parked either side of the runway to allow emergency landing of aeroplanes after dark.

If Sucre is to become the seat of Government then surely the airport will need to be upgraded to international standards.


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