Oirschot, July 2015
Dear family, friends and acquaintances of Theo,
As you probably have noticed, this time the information bulletin has been written by the Stichting Werk Theo Raaijmakers and not from Theo himself. Theo is recovering in hospital in Cochabamba at the moment and his rehabilitation will take a considerable amount of time. This situation has arisen due to a combination of a neglected pneumonia (basically it should have been diagnosed and treated a lot earlier than it has been) and complete exhaustion. The letter you have received below is a summary of a report written by Theo a while ago for the “Adventsactie” (Advent fundraising event). This fundraising, which amounted to a considerable sum, enabled Theo to continue with the work in Casa Jerusalén in Cochabamba.
“We are already in the sixth month of the year, which means it’s due time to inform you how we are doing in Casa Jerusalén and especially with regard to all the youth here. As you probably already know, Casa Jerusalén is one of the houses, which is part of a big project for street children and youth in the city of Cochabamba. We have on average between 25 and 30 youths staying here, whose ages vary between 14 and 25 years old. The youths, that come here, are mostly those that aren’t welcome anywhere else any more: they will not be taken in by any other institution and Casa Jerusalén is actually their “last chance”. That idea of “last chance” is something that we don’t play on too much, because we don’t like giving up on anyone; it would be really terrible if we had to keep saying, “Just one more chance, and another one and another last chance” …. which can’t go on forever and isn’t the way we work. But generally speaking, it would have had to have gone really far before we would eprimand somebody by stating, “you’ve reached the limit and that’s your lot”.
Currently, we’ve got 25 youths here and generally everything is running as it should.
Most of the youths work during the day and attend school in the evening; the youngest are at home in the morning to clean the house, to do their homework and to attend school in the afternoon. On 26th April we celebrated the anniversary of the opening of our house 23 years ago; which is something we don’t actually do very often, but this year we had a special breakfast, which was completely prepared by Orlando en Abel; Abel completed his studies and is now a qualified chef, who has got a job at the bakers and mainly makes cakes and Orlando, who is studying for the same profession and doing really well. The breakfast with everybody from this house was great and we all eat more than enough! That is for them and us a luxury that doesn’t happen very often. I have worked and lived in this house for 17 years now and hope to be able to do so for a long time to come, especially because we continue seeing the results that are achieved. Abel came here a while ago (because his brother was already with us), and has done really well and continues to do so. However, Orlando is someone who really has come from the streets, who attempted to study while on the streets, but has come here to really achieve this goal and after his primary school wanted to study to become a qualified chef; he is now in his second year of this study and is doing it with much enthusiasm. Every day Orlando cooks the evening meal for everybody in our house. In the morning this is done by one of the other youths, who is helped by another resident from our house. That is one of the principles we think is really
important: in the beginning we also had a cook, but that was a long time ago; later it is unlikely they will ever have their own cook so they have to learn to cook themselves.
This way they become more self-supportive and independent. Every Saturday Orlando does the weekly shopping with another resident. We give them our trust and because of this, they trust themselves more. Usually, we don’t have any excessive luxury food in our house; this is intentional, because later, they most likely won’t have any luxury food in their own homes. The food is good but not the most expensive or excessive: once a month we have a special meal; this is when a young chef, who used to live in our house, comes and prepares a meal and from whom Orlando and Abel will always be able to learn something about their profession.
As already mentioned, nearly everybody in our house works; at the moment Jorge, David and Angel are busy cleaning the house; Jesús is already at work by a family; Jaime, Diego and Celso departed early this morning, as did Marco; Juan Pablo and David (another David) have gone to university; Milton, Miguel, Victor, have already gone to their jobs; as far as we are concerned they can do any arbitrary job they want to do: for example, Miguel and Gustavo still wash car windscreens on the streets and we are fine with this, as long as they regularly manage to save money with us, thus enabling them to be in a position to live independently in the future; Germán works as a shoe cobbler and Christian is also learning this trade; this morning Antony left for school he will do all the necessary jobs that are needed to be done in our house on his return this afternoon.
At the beginning of the year Nicolás arrived here; I’m not certain in how many different homes he had already lived prior to his arrival here; he is just fourteen and his family is a disaster; there are people who live on the streets and sniff glue and Nicolás had also lived this way of life; and a week ago he suddenly disappeared and has joined his sister on the streets again…. He was doing well here and was really enjoying being here, but unfortunately he still hadn’t forgot his old way of life. We won’t give up on him though; we are in contact with him on the streets and keep inviting him to come back and also let him know that the door is always open; we will keep doing this and are hopeful that he will eventually come back to us. People need chances and there are not many places where they can get
them or go to……………….
This month we will begin with repairs and an overhaul here at Casa Jerusalén. There are a number of urgent jobs that simply have to happen and we hope to complete everything before the end of the year. What will be special about this project is that we want it to be done by people that used to live here with us or who still live here with us. From the architect to the painter, to the electrician and from the plumber to the bricklayers, completely everything and everybody!! We shall be very proud of this achievement, but they all will too. It is difficult to give a written account of everything that has
happened over a period of several months in a house like ours, but these few impressions will hopefully, once again give you an idea of what we (try to) do here in Casa Jerusalén. We are very grateful for the support of the “Adventsactie” and are very happy that so many people help us. Thank you all so much!!
Kind regards and all the best wishes to you all!!
On behalf of Theo and the Stichting Werk Theo Raaijmakers (Foundation Work Theo Raaijmakers)
It would be easier and cheaper for us to send you this letter
by e-mail. If you agree with this, please let us know.