Cochabamba, december 2016

Dear friends,
we are already very close to Christmas, so I'd better sit down and write a letter to you all with the latest news.

I have already been back in Bolivia for more than two months after my holidays in the Netherlands. My holidays were excellent and I had a great time with my family and friends and many others. I really had a wonderful time with my sisters and brothers-in-law and I enjoyed every minute of it. It was also fantastic to have a reunion with most of my classmates and my teacher from primary school and with four of my best friends from secondary school. I also had a chance to meet with some of my older friends and to say goodbye to Leo and René. Apart from all that, I had cataract surgery on both my eyes and I can see a lot better now! My eyes are almost like new!

Now ordinary life has resumed again. Schools have closed already for the summer holidays. Some of our youngsters have finished secondary school and have received their diplomas. One of them is Andrés who was with us for several years and then started to live independently and now he has his secondary school diploma, maybe helped by his girlfriend; we often see that girlfriends are a good influence for our youngsters as far as studies and work are concerned. In the coming days Orlando will also finish his studies;he will then officially be a chef/cook; a couple of years ago he finished his secondary school. He is one who came straight from the streets to live in our house, so he has really done well for himself!
There are more youngsters like that. Hernán came to visit us some days ago. He is now a veterinarian with our help, and doing very well, but when he was younger he caused us a lot of headaches... He came to see me now to apologise for all that and also to thank us for all that we did for him and also for the fact that we kept on believing in him and giving him chances. This week I also called Alejandro; I was having problems with my laptop and Alejandro became an engineer in communications with our help, and now he was able to repair my laptop for me. And whenever I am having trouble with my back, I can always call upon Davíd who very soon will be finishing his studies as a physiotherapist. Davíd is also one of those people who has come straight from the streets to live in our house.
The most incredible story of the past few weeks is probably the story of Efraín. He is studying medicine in Cuba, together with Victor who was also with us; Efraín came to us when he was three years old. He and Victor got a scholarship/grant to study in Cuba and they are both doctors now; they still have to do their speciality. That will also be with a grant but they had to do three years of community service, and they have done most of that, a lot of it in Haiti. A few weeks ago we heard some rumors that Efraín's brother was looking for him. We were shocked and surprised, because we had never known anything about his family, and we have known Efraín for 25 years! In the end we talked with his brother and now Efraín is in the country to get to know his brother and the rest of his family. I think you can say that it takes a bit if getting used to the idea! Maybe there is still another brother and maybe a half-sister, but Efraín's brother has not been able to find out about them and he does not yet know anything about the parents either. The story is too long for this letter, but finding your brother after 25 years is already a miracle!
Our house always has it's doors open to receive people; that is to say, it can happen that someone leaves the house and that afterwards he wants to come back again, and we really never shut the door for anyone. To give an example, Santiago is back with us again. In the past we had quite a lot of problems with him, but he seems to have changed now; he talks to us and to others, he is working and he really seems to move in the right direction. So, give him another chance, and maybe another one.... In the same way, Nicolás, Antony and Jorge used to be with us; at the moment they are not living in our house - the street remains an attraction for them - but the door will always be open for them. There is always hope that they will change. We also have a young kid in the house, José Luís; he does not really talk to anyone all day; we hope that he may change slowly and that he starts getting some friends and becomes more open...
Last week I had a chat with Germán. He has been with us for a number of years and finished his secondary school. After that he started to learn to make and repair shoes and he has been working in a shoe factory for a couple of years. That is what he always wanted to do. He came to talk to me and expressed that he is now ready to become independent; he is ready for that; and he also expressed his profound gratitude that he got a chance to live here and to study and learn a trade.
We also continue to work with the Night Shelter for people who live on the streets. It is very hard work for the people who go to visit them on the streets and who work with them. There are some people who don't think it is very useful, but we think that it is very important to have contact with the people on the streets and with the people in the prisons. That is maybe the only thing they have in their lives. I always have contact with people in the prisons; there were two young men there and they spent eight months in prison and in the end it turned out that they were innocent and we were able to get them out. One of them, Luís, sends one or two messages every day to tell me to take good care of myself and to ask whether I need anything.
We have a volunteer in the house at the moment, a young Dutchman called Jonas. He is wanting to make some short films to give some more information about Casa Jerusalén, Casa Ana Maria, our school San Vicente and about the Night Shelter.
What else? A couple of people with broken legs, almost an operation for appendicitis for one of our youngsters until they discovered that he had kidney stones.... He was almost on the operating table!!
And: there is a big shortage of water here, a severe drought. In many places there is no water, but fortunately we have had some rain now for a couple of days.

Dear friends, a very Blessed Christmas and a very Happy New Year to all of you! Thanks very much for all you are doing for our kids and youngsters, and we hope that you will continue to support us because we'd be lost without your help!
With kindest regards and all best wishes!