Mission to Bolivia is about Empowerment, Caring and Sharing the Love of God.
The Bolivia Mission Program of the New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church is a multi-faceted connection with our brothers and sisters in the vicinity of Cochabamba in central Bolivia and also with the new medical clinic in the La Paz/El Alto area. This connection focuses on strengthening:
• Children’s programs
• Medical and health programs
• Christian education
• Church and community development and
• Numerous self-help programs, especially to empower women
- Construct or renovate church, daycare, clinic, and other program facilities.
- Teach and celebrate with children in vacation bible school.
- Assist with various workshops that, for example, train daycare workers; help empower women to regain their emotional, spiritual, and financial strength to care for their families; or improve marriages.
- Work with other programs (such as medical and dental clinics), depending on the talents and experiences of the team members.
Children are a major emphasis in the Central District. Four churches have active daycare programs that enable women, many of them single parents, to work to support their families. Even the small financial charge made for this service is sometimes beyond the ability of mothers to pay, and church funding is needed to keep the programs going and provide a safe, nurturing Christian sanctuary for the children. At Piedra Viva, a new congregation created in the poor mountainous terrain on the edge of town where many rural poor have migrated seeking a better life, programs to provide breakfast for children and after-school tutoring have grown rapidly over the past years and now are serving about 45 children daily while also bringing some of their parents into the church fold.
Medical and Dental Health Programs
Gifts through the Bolivia mission have contributed to significant improvements in the health of people in Cochabamba, in rural Andean villages, and more recently in El Alto. The Emmanuel Church in Cochabamba has a medical and dental clinic that has served the surrounding community for many years. Bolivia mission support for this has come from such activities as having VIM teams carry medical, dental, and optical supplies to the clinic and helping with construction and renovation of facilities, such as the X-Ray room built in 2005. More recently, a smaller facility was established at the Nazareno Church in Cochabamba and at the church in Cotani, a rural Andean village near Cochabamba. Start-up funding was provided by the mission to establish a program providing basic nursing care and nutritional advice in the daycare centers. One of the churches recently established an emergency medical fund to provide loans to cover emergency medical expenses, and while in Cochabamba the 2007 VIMs contributed funds to establish a similar fund at the Central District level.
Rural Health Programs: Sanitation Facilities, Chagas-Safe Houses, and Others
Programs to promote better health for indigenous inhabitants of small villages in the rural areas of the Andes Mountains around Cochabamba have a significant impact on the lives of these descendants of the Inca, not only because of the immediate effects on their health but also because the organization skills learned in implementing such programs, and the hope generated by their success, usually result in the villagers originating and carrying out their own programs to further improve their living conditions. Current emphasis of the Bolivia mission is to support a Central District program under development to construct sanitation facilities in the area around the Methodist Church in Cotani, a mountain village outside Cochabamba where over 600 inhabitants had no toilets. This is patterned after a recently-completed program of an ecumencal organiation supported by the Bolivia mission that enabled rural villagers to construct replacement homes that protect current and future generations from the debilitating, deadly, and incurable Chagas Disease (a parasitic ailment transmitted by a beetle that lives in the thatched roofs and porous walls of the traditional houses in these villages). About 85% of adults in these villages already have this disease, but they have worked with this program to protect the children, born and not yet born. Each $500 contribution to this unique Bolivia mission program (a) provided a tithe to future church development through the GBGM Encounter with Christ permanent fund and (b) funded 70% of the materials for a new home with a metal roof, concrete floor, and plastered walls to keep out the beetle. The villagers provided funding of the remaining 30% of the materials - not an easy task given the limited economic opportunities they have - and all the labor to build the houses. Valuing thie labor at local rates, the villagers provided about 70% of the total cost of each house, but it was that critical first $500 contribution that planted the seed that is growing into a village in which all houses are Chagas-safe. That same initial financial seed in Cotani now will help the whole village construct ecologically sound toilets - designed by Engineers Without Borders - and drastically reduce the incidence of diseases spread through human waste.
Mustard Seeds are funds that are provided for starting or expanding self-help programs to improve the economic and social situation for members of Methodist churches and the surrounding communities.