Moergestel, July 2016
Dear family and friends,
Yes, this time my letter is from the Netherlands! I am home for a few months to get away for a while from the busy life in Cochabamba! Until now I have been occupied a lot with the cataract surgeries on both my eyes. The surgeries are behind me, and now I just have to wait until I have my new glasses….. I can now, without glasses, see a lot more than before, but reading is still a problem. Of course, there are also many things to enjoy over here, and I am doing so with all my heart!!
This time, the letter is filled, to a large extent, with the stories of a group of students from a secondary school (Jacob Roelands) from Boxtel, the Netherlands, who came to Bolivia in april. They also visited a few of our projects, and below are some of their impressions:
“This evening we went to Casa Ana Maria and also to the Night Shelter which are under the care of father Theo. For me, personally, this was the most impressive experience until now. I was chosen, with Noor and Marco, to do an interview with two youngsters who live in Casa Ana Maria. At first, the youngsters were a bit uneasy. Mauricio and Juan are 19 and 20 years old, and they were going to have a talk with us, two girls aged 13 and 16. I understood that this was a bit strange and difficult, but after asking them a number of times whether they agreed, we started. The interview was mostly about how they had ended up in Amanecer and in Casa Ana Maria. First of all, Mauricio began to talk about his past and that touched me enormously. He is from a family that in the beginning was very peaceful and happy, but all that changed very quickly. His parents fought a lot and there was often physical violence. At some point they could not go on in that way and his parents separated. But they left Mauricio behind…For me the strangest thing of all was that Mauricio’s mother took his two younger brothers with her but not him. Mauricio ended up with his grandmother and she took care of him until she died. After the death of his grandmother, he ended up in one of the houses of Amanecer and he is still in the project. Mauricio is in his last year of secondary school and he is working as well. His life in Amanecer has not always gone smoothly either, he was addicted and from the age of ten he did a lot of stealing. He was addicted to smoking marihuana. Something that really hit me hard was when he said: ‘During that period in my life I preferred 1000 times more to die rather than to continue living’. It hit me that someone so young could have these thoughts. At the age of 15 he left his problems behind him, with the help of father Theo and Sixto (one of the people who works in Casa Ana Maria). Theo and Sixto have given him the feeling that his life really matters. This is what I really like about the work that Theo (among others) does in this city; he lets them know that they really matter, that their lives are important, and that there are people who care about them”.
“In twelve days we have done so many things, but a few things really stood out for me. The most impressive thing for me was when we went onto the streets with father Theo and met two groups of street children. We saw the wounds of one of the youngsters and that was shocking. Cuts all over his body and his arms, just to forget the psychological pain. At the same time they were sniffing glue. What hit me even more was that they were washing car windows and that one of the girls was prostituting herself for less than one euro. ONE EURO, YES, hard to believe. The huts where they slept were very poor; with many men and women in two small huts of maybe even less than 2 square meters. And to cook with 14 persons in one pot and to eat together from 5 plates”.
“For me the most special thing was that there are people in Bolivia who give their lives for others. I am talking about Theo and others. The special work they are doing there made a big impression on me. They really should be praised for that, but I have no words to express it. I have really learned a lot from them and I am grateful to them for that. They have become an example for me, but I think not just for me. They can be very proud of themselves. To begin with Theo, a very special man. His forgiveness knows no limits, and it does not matter whether he gives a person a 2nd or a 100th chance. He keeps on treating people with sincerity, and I admire that very much. For example, the young kid whom we met in the Night Shelter. He was younger than I, only 15, and addicted to drugs. Before our trip to Bolivia it was difficult for me to imagine how for example his life would be. But I have come to realise that life could have been a lot worse for me. That idea really made me think. And I am glad to be able to help the people who really can be helped, for example the youngsters in the Night Shelter. The next day we met that boy again on the streets, in a very bad situation, with lots of glue sniffing. He has lived in Theo’s house a number of times, but every time he disappeared again. At the end of our visit he said to Theo that he wants another chance, that he wants to try again. And of course Theo said ‘yes’. He would give another chance to anyone and everyone, and I admire that very much. It does not matter how many chances someone has had already, Theo will always keep on saying ‘yes’’.”
Thanks very much to them for their stories and impressions! And also for the financial support we received from them!! Thanks very much also to all of you for all that you do and for all you emails, facebook messages, etc. We are always very grateful that you support us in the work we are trying to do with the children and youngsters in Cochabamba!! We really hope that we’ll be able to count on you in the future, because the help for all those young people in Bolivia is still very much needed! Thanks again, all best wishes and God bless!!