Personal Reflections

Blogging in from Bolivia!


Well, I had really expected to be blogging every day, but there is no Wi Fi anywhere in Sorata and the connections in the internet cafes are very slow; so my first blog starts two weeks into my stay in Sorata.
I had a warm welcome at the BQE office in La Paz and I was glad to meet them after my two day journey from home. There was a strike at La Paz airport so I spent the best part of two days in the airport hotel in Miami – not a good start!
The journey by minibus from La Paz to Sorata was breathtaking. The last 40 minutes or so is a dirt track and I still can’t see how so much food, building materials and all the necessities for life in a small town actually get here along those roads.

I have arrived!



Well, it took exactly two days to get to La Paz from Abergavenny. There was a strike at the airport here which meant that no planes  could land for 24 hours. 36 hours in Miami airport was interesting!!

After a short rest I hit the town. The location is breathtaking and the women really do wear traditional dress. The centre seems quite compact and I hope to have time tomorrow to look at some more places of interest. Most of all I am looking forward to meeting everyone at the Internado in Sorata. 

I am really excited now about meeting everyone. I am writing this in the lobby of the hostal as I wait for Ruben. Wi fi access is good here and I have at last worked out how to Skype.

A month to go!

Hilary and Friends

I can't believe that I will be in Bolivia in one month. I am trying to read as much in Spanish possible to prepare and listening to Bolivian news on line. I have gathered a small amount of classroom material but am hoping that I will be able to adapt to the needs of the schools when I arrive. I am completely flexible as to the kind of support I can give staff and students, I just hope I can help. I have good spiritual support from my meeting here in Abergavenny, especially from the small discussion group I attend regularly. These Friends will be reading my blog while I am away. My family are quite excited about my adventure and very supportive. My husband is hoping to visit sometime in October. I have been raising funds for the BQEF through meeting - see attached photos. Bendiciones Hilary

Reflections on our visit with Bolivian Friends March to May 2011

Ultimate Frisbee Crew

Visiting Gregorias and Gregoria Apaza


5/24 - Before I came to La Paz, I had heard about the women’s cooperative called Gregorias and was told I must visit, since my work is in women’s microenterprise. Once I started to look into it, I learned quite a bit. There are actually two (at least) organizations: Gregoria Apaza, an NGO started 27 years ago whose name honors a Bolivian heroine, and Gregorias, an offshoot organization developed with the help of Quaker Bolivia Link, an international organization. Gregorias is a wonderful cooperative of a few women who work together in a sunny room filled with looms. They are responsible for their own work and designs, setting their own prices, paying their rent (anticredito) and making decisions together. The community is stable, consisting of several Quaker women and their friends. We bought a large number of chalinas, or scarves, made from alpaca wool and the creamiest texture imaginable. We plan to sell them at our Yearly Meeting to benefit BQEF.

Visiting Escuela Emmanuel in El Alto - environmental awareness

Emmanuel students and visitors with the new paper recycling bins


We visited the Quaker School Escuela Emmanuel in El Alto with Juan, Ruben and Edwin. It was environmental awareness day, and the students delivered new trash cans to each classroom. We talked with the children about separating trash and reusing organic waste. They have just purchased additional property next door so they might be able to use a compost bin. We discussed the importance of properly disposing of trash and also lots of other environmental issues. We talked about reusing plastic bags, or better yet, using cloth bags, using the example of a town in New Hampshire where the students succeeded in replacing plastic bags with cloth bags. We told the students they had a big responsibility to help clean up the earth, and to teach their families the importance of doing so.


Workshop on Quaker Values in Microenterprise

Friends share applying Quaker values in micro-enterprise
On Saturday I gave a workshop on Quaker values in small business education. It was really fun pulling it together, mingling my business school marketing training with information from small business workshops I assisted in Guatemala with indigenous women, and reflecting on John Woolman’s experience in refusing to write contracts to buy and sell people as slaves! We talked about how Quakers have always declined to barter, setting a fair price instead. I shared my experience in the 80s when I organized the Women’s Housing Initiative with Susan Davies and Anne Gelbspan in Boston, and how Cambridge Meeting testified to its values in assisting that organization with a large loan and spiritual support. The participants were interested to hear about a whole community working together to create a project, since most of their work tends to be individually based.

Quaker School in Achacachi



We visited the Quaker school in Achacachi, one of only three remaining Quaker schools in Bolivia. (The other two are Max Paredes in La Paz and Emmanuel in El Alto.) Achacachi is a town two hours away from La Paz, on the way to Sorata. To get there you ride along the altiplano with a rim of snow-covered peaks in the distance, and then along the shore of Lake Titicaca. All along the way, people are farming their fields by hand.

Visiting with Friends in Cochabamba (sorry - pics won't upload)


 5/10/11 - On our travel through Bolivia, we went to the inauguration of the new church in Cochabamba. It is a small congregation called Congregación Cristiana Amigos. On Saturday, we got up at 5:30 to go over to the church and undertake a massive clean-up before the heat built up. The building was recently built and there were huge piles of construction materials and debris still there. The community consists of only four households and a few friends here and there, so our help was really needed, especially that of my three tall and strong teens. Everybody was floored at their strength and energy. We piled up a truck-full of trash for pickup out front, we sorted and stored construction materials and made some steps for the front door. Then we laid carpet and flooring and cleaned the place from top to bottom. It is a lovely building of which the Friends have the first floor, consisting of a worship room, kitchen and bath, and two classrooms. They have an audio system and with the guidance of Hans, one of our hosts, their audio-visual system for putting songs and pictures up on the wall is a marvel.

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