On 7th October you are invited to join CAFOD online for your chance to hear from Nikki Evans, Programme Officer for Bolivia. You can find out about CAFOD’s work in Bolivia, you’ll have the opportunity to ask any questions you might have about our projects and the communities we work with.
One Sunday 6 years ago, I was invited to go along to Noddfa retreat centre, Penmaenmawr to be involved in a Potato Day. Katja (who had organised the day) had been out to Bolivia and had seen first-hand the effect poverty, and lack of food had on the people out there. I was 15 when this started in 2007, and attended many of the youth retreats and CAFOD days. I had always said when I was older I would love to be on the other side of the programme delivering the fun and more reflective workshops.
In the Summer 2007 Potatoes had been sown, and they were dug out the following October where we met and had a day themed around the potato and the ‘live simply’ campaign. The ‘Potato day’ became an annual gathering, where the youth of the diocese (me included) came together and got involved in a day of fun themed around a particular CAFOD campaign.
Last Sunday 22nd September we gathered at Noddfa but this time I had the experience of being on the leadership team. Katja and Anne represented CAFOD and as well as them, there were members of staff representing two Schools in the diocese, an ex-youth worker, a Priest and of course the Sisters at Noddfa who all played a major part in the day being such a success. There were youth from the age of 13-18 from different schools and parishes of the diocese.
The Potato day this year had the theme ‘Live Simply, so others may simply live’ and as always we began with the sign of the cross to remind us of why we were sharing this special day together. We had refreshments and Ice Breakers before the CAFOD team delivered the ‘IF’ campaign. Lunch was provided by the Sisters of Noddfa which is always a delight and the children and adults all got chance to chat and share stories of previous visits to the potato day. We were invited to explore the gardens, and we were extremely fortunate in that it was a glorious day. We were then led in a workshop ‘if the world was a potato’ we shrank the universe 195 million times smaller and the youth group discussed the size of planets in relation to the potato (earth). The focus was fabulous and the children were buzzing! then they were brought back to ‘earth’ and looked at pictures taken from space of the effect our lifestyles and wastefulness has on the earth. We had the Annual group photo, and then ended the day with a reflection. During the reflection I invited each person to make a pledge, that they would change one thing they do that will impact upon saving our world such as, using less water when we shower, recycling more etc. We ended the day in the same way we began with the sign of the cross and then shared tea and cake before the journey home.
The day was a real hit as it always is, and the children really seemed to enjoy themselves. As an aspiring RE teacher it is extremely rewarding seeing so many people passionate about making a difference and passing their own enthusiasm onto the children, who are always the most important factor of the day. Hopefully the messages given and enthusiasm will be taken back to the schools and parishes so that we have many more successful ‘Potato Days’ and we will see if the pledges are kept this time next year.
In Bolivia, CAFOD and Christian Aid share an office, and work in partnership on issues such as indigenous rights and sustainable livelihoods. So when Cecilia Cordova, a Christian Aid worker from Bolivia, visited North Wales for the ‘IF’ campaign, Michael Richards, one of our CAFOD Great Generation, requested the day off school to hear what Cecilia had to say about life in Bolivia. This is what Michael had to say about the day:
“On Monday 22nd April 2013, I had the opportunity to have the day of school to meet Cecilia from Bolivia. Bolivia is a land locked country in South America. It is small but is 4 times bigger than the United Kingdom. Cecilia has been a Christian Aid worker in Bolivia for 4 years. In Bolivia they have a mountain that is 15,000 feet above sea level. Cecilia gave us many facts during the day, she told us that in Bolivia, the Amazon Rainforest takes up a larger percentage of the land. In 1956 Bolivia had a land reform because a few families owned most of it and indigenous people had no titles for their land.
Cipca is one of the main projects that is in Bolivia. There is 2 projects in the North of the Amazon Rainforest, these mainly focus on the land rights of the rainforest communities. There is 36 different ethnic groups living in Bolivia. Christian Aid and CAFOD are both working for indigenous right, which is the right for Bolivian residents to have land, and the agro forest resistance which is to grow crops without using chemicals. Christian Aid have found the money to build a factory that will process the cocoa beans into chocolate.
When the Bolivian government want to implement a new law, they have to ask the indigenous people their opinion on it. Some of the projects currently being worked on in Bolivia are:
- climate change platform, this brings together indigenous people. The main message that the indigenous people in Bolivia is ” we are all responsible for climate change, instead of spending time arguing with each other why don’t we try to resolve a solution to this.”
- the CEDLA project, focuses on the workers rights
not being respected and that the tax system in Bolivia is failing the
- Iseat, focuses on working with indigenous people in the Amazon Rainforest, on their spiritual side.
In Bolivia they chose their parliament members the old-fashioned way. The Bolivian government say that there is no reason for woman to own land. ‘Agua sustentable’ (sustainable water) works on the climate change side of the campaigning. A lot of people in Bolivia didn’t have access to water but thanks to Christian Aid and CAFOD they now have water everyday. The community is choosing which abandoned projects should be restarted. Projects they are focusing on:
- Resilient and thriving communities.
- Tax injustice: through joint action with international networks, social movements and unions Bolivia have perceived the need for a tax reform in the country.
In 2003, the Bolivian president thought that it would be a good idea to sell Bolivian gas to Chile. However the Bolivian residents weren’t happy with this. They protested outside the gas plant, so the president of Bolivia sent the army to disperse the crowd, during this process the army killed 60 Bolivians. He left Bolivia soon after so the Vice President became the president of Bolivia. Through a referendum, he asked the Bolivians do they want to sell their gas to Chile, which the Bolivians said no. 10% of the Amazon Rainforest has now been cut down. It is now illegal to cut down the trees in the Amazon rainforest so they burn it down and blame it on other people. Some communities in the amazon now get flooded because of the deforestation in the amazon rainforest. Bolivia is very rich in minerals they used to have a lot of silver, there is even gold in the Amazon rainforest!”
In Bolivia due to the increasing heat this means that the sheep in the Amazon in Bolivia don’t have any wool. Some of the small communities in Bolivia fish for their food in the rivers and in small lakes, however this is dangerous as people are extracting gold with mercury which is leaking into the lakes. In Bolivia 80% of the food is potatoes. (-Which is why the CAFOD North Wales annual Youth event is called ‘Potato Day’)
“With the ‘Enough Food For Everyone IF’ campaign, CAFOD, Christian Aid and 170 other charities are fighting for an issue that needs to be ended.
The way that we live has an impact on the rest of the world.
“It is a scandal that 1 in 8 people are going hungry each day”
-Thanks Michael for sharing all that you learnt from Cecilia about the work with indigenous people in Bolivia.
If you would like to find out more about CAFOD’s work in Bolivia please visit our website: