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:
- To offer educational and health services within all Cochabamba prisons
- To provide workshops in art, music, computers, cooking etc. to young at-risk people
- To help inmates make an income by providing skill shares and training
- To offer childcare services for the children of current and former inmates
- To help with the marketing and distribution of goods produced by current and former inmates
Who does Ayni Ruway help?
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.
Ayni Ruway Programs
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:
- Bakery and laundry services at the San Sebastian Women’s Prison
- Bakery, woven & ceramic goods by former inmates of San Sebastian Women’s Prison
- Shoe Repair at the San Antonio Prison
- Carpentry at the El Abra Maximum Security Prison
Internship Opportunities Include
- Assist in expanding current programs
- Marketing of goods
- Help create and expand projects for spouses of inmates
- Research potential community resources to help develop projects
- Improve current projects and research ways to further develop them
- Run a workshop/skill share
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.
Internship Opportunities Include
- Assisting in workshops and developing ways to possibly improve them
- Develop and implement new workshops/skill shares
- Marketing and promotion of goods produced by inmates
- Running a skills share project (past volunteers have taught computing and guitar classes)
Educational and health services
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.
Volunteer/ Internship requirements
- Upper intermediate Spanish
- Experience and/or knowledge in one or more relevant fields (i.e. counseling, marketing, education and training)
- Experience working with at-risk persons (valued but not necessary)
- Willingness to work in a prison environment
- Willingness to share a skill
- Motivated with good interpersonal skills
- Minimum commitment of 3 months