|Social workers talking with a newspaper seller in Sucre|
It just so happens that we arrive to Sucre around the same time that we are ready to take an extended break from traveling. Click here to read about Sucre. I see a flier from Cafe Amsterdam that they are having a pub quiz where the proceeds will be donated to an organization that is helping working children (in Spanish they use the acronym NNATs - niños, niñas y adolescentes trabajadores - which means boys, girls and adolescent workers in English). It has been my experience that every organization likes to have photos and that usually nobody has money to pay for it, so I figure that I could offer my services voluntarily.
When I first meet with Centro Educativo Ñanta I assume that I would just spend a couple of days photographing the daily activities of the organization and seeing what type of work the children are doing around town. However, the timing of my visit to Sucre happens to coincide with school winter vacation, so several excursions are planned. Also, Ñanta's birthday is coming up. Plus this organization just seems to have a lot going on including: an education center, daily lunch program, a magazine, swimming lessons, computers, attempting to make a movie from scratch and a home for teenage boys. Then there is a new independent project (but working closely with Ñanta) that has just started a few weeks ago with two social workers doing outreach work to the NNATs all over Sucre and the outlying suburbs. So as you can see, I stay quite busy while here.
|Linda from Cafe Amsterdam gives cooking lessons at the boys' home|
Centro Educativo Ñanta
I do not have the exact numbers, but I can tell you that there are a lot of children visibly working in Sucre. Many of these children come from poor migrant families that do not have the capability to provide them with the basic necessities, so family income is supplemented by child labor. Ñanta works to limit the psychological and physical effects this hard life has on the children.
|Education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty|
|Every weekday the kids of all ages can get tutoring help for their homework|
|A volunteer nurse treating an injury|
|Studying English from one of the books in the library|
|Lunch at Ñanta. They charge 1 Boliviano (US $0.14) so that|
the children will not get accustomed to handouts
Happy Birthday Ñanta
In July 2000 the organization that would eventually become Ñanta began. This year they are having their birthday party at an open play area in town. The kids from Ñanta will be putting on a talent show, but this party is open to everyone. Many working kids who do not normally go to Ñanta also come in off the streets to share in the festivities.
|Doing a miners dance and the talent show winners|
|Everyone gets a gift on Ñanta's birthday|
|The kitchen staff and volunteers work hard to provide lunch for everybody|
|Amateur Photographer: The kids love borrowing cameras and snapping photos. Though having almost just lost my camera at Machu Picchu mine stayed safely around my neck.|
Now one thing I do learn is that Bolivians cannot dance, well salsa dance anyway. Shame on me for stereotyping all Latinos. I assumed that they would all be little salsa maniacs. I remember going to family parties in Central America where eight year olds were dancing salsa better than I could ever dare. The Bolivian kids, however, really need to be egged on to step on the dance floor though this is mostly due to shyness.
Once they are finally coaxed onto the dance floor (sometimes by playful force) the kids stand in two horizontal lines facing eachother and moving to the beats. This organized line dancing lasts throughout the party.
|It took a lot of coaxing to get the kids out on the dance floor|
(notice the stick)
|Bolivian line dancing?|
|By the time I leave the dance party is in full swing. |
No grown-ups necessary.
|Everyone loves getting out of the city|
|Ready to make mischief|
As part of the staff this trip was exhausting, but I think the kids had a great time. Walking in town a few days later I run into one of the shoeshine boys at the plaza. The first thing he asks me is where they are going to go next year.
|The older kids do some bonding exercises|
|while some of the younger kids play games like this volleyball-soccer hybrid balloon game|
|Look at the concentration of this volley-soccer goalie|
|Some intense foosball matches|
|And let's not forget the three-legged race|
|Games are fun and all but everyone really just wants to get in the pool. For a group of kids that actually do not know how to swim, they sure do have a great time jumping in and out of the freezing water.|
The second field trip is with the kids from Ñanta to a river surrounded by small mountains with a sandy beach and a nearby soccer field. The kids working at the airport and those washing buses outside the city are also invited to come. A good group of boys from the airport arrive, however none of the kids cleaning buses can come. They say that their mothers will beat them if they go on the excursion instead of working. This is a sad reality for many child laborers.
We meet at Ñanta and there are two truckloads full of kids and adults. I think almost every staff member and volunteer are coming so it is really well-staffed. Plus these kids have much less energy to burn-off then do the gang of shoeshine boys. This trip is pretty smooth and again everyone has a great time.
|The truck ride out of town|
|Right away the older boys get a soccer match going|
|while others hit the beach and river|
|Playing in the sand|
|Playing in the sand too|
|Enjoying his day off from working at the airport|
Swimming, Swimming in the Swimming Pool
One of the ongoing activities offered by Ñanta is swimming lessons and free swim at a public pool located near the Parque Bolivar. I am not sure of the exact schedule, but I know that it is several times a week. They offer swimming times in the mornings and afternoons depending on when the kids go to school. I also know that every other Saturday there is a free swim for the working kids. The kids who just roll in off the streets can borrow bathing suits and towels. I think it is safe to say that without this program many of these kids would almost never have the opportunity to learn how to swim or even just jump in a pool.
|Swim class for a group of boys who shine shoes|
|A volunteer teaching the first jumps|
|What is not taught in swim class|
|Huddling around the shower after swimming. Ñanta provides soap and shampoo.|
|Changing area for these boys with their shoeshine boxes|
|Handing out free marbles|
|Tossing free marbles|
|Let the games begin|
To visit Ñanta's website click the link
Another Editor's Note: This has gotten quite long, and there is more to tell. So for the next post I will write more in detail about child labor in Sucre and in Bolivia in general and also about my time walking around town with the social workers. So stay tuned and thanks for reading!