Ayni Ruway was established in 1995 to help incarcerated individuals in Cochabamba live dignified and healthy lives. The organization provides current and former inmates with educational, vocational, and emotional support in order to successfully reintegrate into society.
The primary goal of Ayni Ruway is to improve the lives of inmates and their families, many of whom are left to suffer with no means of income. Services provided include educational, psychological and legal aid, skill shares and micro-enterprise projects. Spouses are offered skills training so they can support themselves, and former inmates are provided career advice as well as skills training to help find employment upon release.
What once started off as a small NGO has now developed into an organization working in three of Bolivia’s departments with a wide range of professionals and volunteers from around the world.
Ayni Ruway’s central mission is to fight for the equality of inmates, former inmates and their families. By providing workshops and classes they hope to better the quality of life and facilitate integration of incarcerated individuals back into society. Ayni Ruway’s goals include:
Bolivian prisons have seen a large increase in numbers due to changes in the drug trafficking law stating that anyone caught is guilty until proven innocent. 60% of those imprisoned are on drug charges, two thirds of whom are awaiting trial and may be for many years.
Ayni Ruway also deals with current and potential buyers of products produced by inmates while in jail. These can be both domestic and international. The focus is on maintaining a constant relationship so that prisoners have a secure source of income.
Ayni Ruway’s main office is located in the center of Cochabamba. It is open between 7am and 9pm, although office hours are usually from 9am to 6pm. Many volunteers would split time between the office and making visits to different prisons.
Mr. Orlando Mengoa is Program Director and one of the founding members of Ayni Ruway. Mr. Mengoa specializes in the field of human rights and is also the supervisor of all volunteers and interns.
Currently the Bolivian government provides minimal support for inmates and their families in the form of three bolivianos (about $0.40) per day. Inmates must find their own means of food, clothing, education and other resources to support their families. Ayni Ruway helps run and support micro-enterprise projects to provide a steady source of income for current and former inmates. At present, Ayni Ruway promotes the production of over twenty-two different types of goods. Various micro-enterprises include:
Ayni Ruway provides training and workshops to support inmates’ micro-enterprise efforts. Activities that volunteers can get involved in include computer classes, music and art workshops, and assistance with the production of handcrafts.
A key factor in Ayni Ruway’s mission is to provide educational and health assistance to current and former inmates. These services are generally provided by inmates themselves and volunteers, depending on experience, at various prisons. Unfortunately, due to lack of human resources and funding, these services cannot be provided on a regular basis.