Testimonial: Nicole Suarez

Bolivia is a country that has many things that are still in need of discovery. Before I came into the country, I was interested in giving to the community. I contacted Sustainable Bolivia, which helped me learn about what many kids in Bolivia have to go through: abandonment. In the Colonia Ecologica, I shared time with many kids, which came from small cities around Bolivia, or were just part of the neighborhood. I discovered a welcoming family, in which together they worked to go forward. La Colonia Ecologica is a village like place, in which kids are sheltered. But many, including my self, think of a shelter as a place which is not so pleasant.

Colonia Ecologica is the complete opposite of the stereotype many of us think of when we think of a shelter. It is a safe place in which kids ranging from age 2 – 19 are homed. There are over 100 kids in La Colonia, 30 of which get to live there, and over 70 kids that go there during the day. Many of the kids here have parents that left them, or don’t have the capacity to take care of themselves, yet alone a kid. La Colonia is run by a married couple Mr. Francisco Villanueva and Mrs. Maria del Carmen Vargas. Before the Colonia, both of them had normal lives, in which they went to work, came home and took care of their kids, having a healthy happy family. Slowly their family started growing, with kids that weren’t their own. Soon they discovered a new passion, their kids. There are so many kids that are in need of assistance which started coming to them for help, they found it hard to say no.

The turning point in their lives was when they decided to leave everything to dedicate their lives to these kids. They moved to a land they owned by Chiquicollo, where they started from scratch. At the beginning they slept in tents, where they found it hard to keep from the cold and the rain. Slowly they started building little houses in which the kids use as a learning environment, where they are taught important skills such as reading, writing, and using a computer. There are many projects that are still on hold because there isn’t enough money to go through with these projects. One of the projects Mr. Villanueva was telling me about was to have more showers so all the kids can shower, especially during the summer time, when it’s so hot. They are still currently trying to find funding so their plans can begin.

La Colonia has a very friendly and safe environment for the kids to grow up in. The time that I spent with them was very valuable and helped me take away experiences that I will never forget. A normal day in La Colonia consists of many different activities. I got to participate in many of them, I got to cook with the girls, work on the garden with the boys, and play with the little ones. I got to talk with them and all the kids opened up to me, telling me how they got to the Colonia, I heard so many stories that surprised me on how much these kids have been through. But these experiences don’t stop them from being young and happy.

One of the characteristics that surprised me the most is how educated, loving and caring the kids are. They welcome you in such a way that makes you feel as part of the family instantaneously. Helping in the Colonia Ecologica, helped me realize how much kids suffer and go through, but thanks to people such as Mr. Villanueva and Mrs. Vargas that kids are given a second chance.

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