What Are These Kids Doing Up So Late? Working on Their Future!

Albertina and a T-shirt with her original design, ready to sell to help pay for a field trip

Working till 2:00 a.m. to fill orders might not be every teenager’s first choice, but that’s what David, Juana and William decided to do (unknown to we adults until the next morning) on my last night in Sorata this past trip. They were silk-screening designs on T-shirts requested by recent Study Tour visitors from California, determined to complete as many as possible for me to bring back to the US. I delivered them at a group reunion the next week, to everyone’s delight.

Real-Life Skills...

The T-shirts are a project of the students at the BQE Internado, a home-away-from-home that enables teens from remote villages to attend secondary schools in Sorata. The students learned silk-screening from a family of volunteers who spent a month with them in the spring. Each student crafted an original design, carefully cut out the stencil, and printed a T-shirt to wear with pride. They then turned to generating designs that appeal to tourists in order to raise funds for an educational trip.

They are creating their own small business, learning accounting and marketing skills along with developing their creativity and design abilities. They have a local hotel, a guest house, and the main tourist souvenir shop ready to sell what they produce.

David, whose impressive drawing talent has developed beautifully in the 5 years I have known him, is the director of production as well as the primary designer of T-shirts for market. He has a remarkable ability to take a suggestion and turn it into a simple but very appealing design.

…and Broadened Horizons

The plan for their educational trip this year will be to visit several sites in La Paz and El Alto, the adjoining satellite city. They will be introduced to fine art at the Museo de Arte there, which has an outstanding collection of paintings and sculpture by Bolivian artists. A special art workshop is even being arranged for their participation. The other main focus of the trip will be visits to two university campuses and talking with BQEF scholarship students about career opportunities. They’ll also visit cultural museums in La Paz and have a city tour with a picnic in a park near the university.

Their T-shirt project supports our goal of supplementing academic learning with practical skills and ex-panded general knowledge. Earning money for the trip contributes to their self-esteem and sense of responsibility, and the trip itself expands their view of the world and the possibilities it holds for them as they plan for their futures.