Two Women, Three Prisons - Part I: Courage

Magaly and Mabel share a quiet moment lakeside

Sociology graduate Magaly Quispe is a former BQEF scholarship student who initially visited San Pedro Prison for her thesis research.  While she was there, she thought about doing AVP and asked for permission from the people in the social department - who said “Yes!”  Magaly convinced some of the other local facilitators to come in and help with the workshops, including her friend Mabel Mena Fonseca (also a BQEF scholarship student), who started out by helping with logistics – snacks, supplies, etc.

At first those workshops were held in the hallways and other difficult–to–focus locations, which made things pretty chaotic. But the guys loved 'em.  AVP got rave reviews from the guys and from the prison officials, both of whom kept asking for more.  AVP took off in San Pedro Prison, and last year Magaly and her team gave 10 workshops to 274 participants. 116 of them were committed enough to complete all the sessions and graduate.  Magaly writes  “We now have an interested group within these walls of 20 people with many positive qualities, who can participate in the facilitators’ training [in 2012].”

Meanwhile, about a year ago, Mabel took a Basic workshop, followed later by a Training for Facilitators in Peru with Jorge Arauz.  She’s been facilitating ever since.

Some of the young men who had taken Magaly and Mabel’s workshops in San Pedro were later transferred to Qalauma prison in Viacha, an isolated area about an hour outside La Paz. They begged Magaly and Mabel to bring AVP there.  Qalauma is a rehabilitation facility for young men 18-25, run by a Catholic order.

On February 1st, the first Qalauma Basic workshop graduated.  Some who have completed the Basic and Advanced workshops in Qalauma will go on to train and apprentice to become facilitators.  With 200 young men in the prison and workshops limited to 20, there’s a lot to do!  

Magaly and Mabel will soon be giving AVP workshops in Chonchocoro prison, (the highest security prison facility in Bolivia), also located outside isolated Viacha.  The San Pedro Prison psychologist has been extremely impressed with their work and was instrumental in getting them in to Chonchocoro (where all the prisoners have a 30 year or longer sentence.)