Access to a solid education in Bolivia is still a challenge. The thousands of children, who live in remote farming communities, are hit the hardest. Often there is no school or merely a single-roomed school house that only offers education up to the 5th school year. When the journey to the next middle school is difficult and takes longer than one hour, many children stop attending school. Girls are particularly likely to do this.
The small community in Copacabana in Yunchará (Tarija district) is one of the poorest and most remote communities in southern Bolivia, where more than 69% of the population live in poverty. Many children must walk 12 km daily in order to reach the nearest school; which provides for a high school drop off rate in the region.
The ‘Students Lodging in Host Families’ program relieves children of their arduous daily journey to their school. Instead, children are able to stay with host families who live close to the school during the week and then return to their own families at the weekend. The bond of trust that exists between the biological mother and the guest mother is the basis for this cooperation and is supported by an Andean tradition called 'uta wawas'. In contrast to traditional boarding schools, the care is more personal and the children are cared for by mothers who come from the same indigenous background. The program is overseen by the local coordinator of the project, who supports the host mothers and ensures the quality of the food, accommodation and care of the children. They also oversee the child’s educational performance.
For the host mothers 'Students Lodging in Host Families' opens up the opportunity to gain respected employment based on their abilities and inclinations. For each child they take care of they receive a sum of money to cover the cost of the students food plus a small surplus as payment for their services. This income strengthens the role of the women in the community where there are few alternative sources of income. The visiting mothers use their income mainly for the purchasing of school supplies and clothes for their own children, which thus also benefits from the project.
Whatever the host mothers need for providing food for their weekly boarders they buy in large part from their neighbours in the village – potatoes, vegetables and eggs etc. This has a significant multiplier effect which contributes to the local economic development in the villages.
Any contribution is welcome, so that the Students Lodging programme can survive the first four years until it is passed into the financial responsibility of the counties!
You can learn more about the project at:
Thank you for your help!
Fundación Pueblo - The Village Foundation