By Joe Loney
Here in Bolivia we enjoy lots of sunshine, but the sun simply does not truly shine equally for everyone. Doña Evarista is a mother of six children and needs some sunshine. She and her husband were subsistence farmers when we met them last year at their home in Sachacaymane, Tacopaya. Their main crop has been potatoes.
Last fall, when Don Sabino became ill and then suddenly died, Doña Evarista was left to raise six children, ages 1 to 13, by herself. The two eldest, Genoveva and Octavio, have severe hearing impairments. Thanks to your generous support, we are teaching Genoveva and Octavio, their teachers and their classmates sign language. We also provide educational support for their younger brother, who has an intellectual disability.
Along with all the challenges of raising six young children — cooking on firewood gathered every day, cleaning the two-room family home and educating — Doña Evarista did not have the physical strength to cultivate potatoes. Recognizing that poverty is both a cause and a consequence of disabilities, we assist persons like Doña Evarista to help themselves by guiding them in methods to improve their incomes.
We recently coordinated with an agricultural expert, Victor Teran, to visit Doña Evarista to see if we could improve her farm income. Victor determined that Doña Evarista could improve her farm income by raising medicinal plants and vegetables for sale to urban dwellers. We met with the local community leader, Don Sebastian, who agreed that the other 18 families would help Doña Evarista to cultivate the new crops and to share with the annual potato crop.
We discovered, however, that the fields in their community receive water during the dry months through an irrigation system fed by a natural spring that badly needs maintenance. So a couple of weeks ago, Victor, Sebastian, Maryknoll Lay Missioners executive director Ted Miles (who was visiting) and I hiked up the mountainside for several kilometers and inspected the irrigation system.
The irrigation system truly needs repair. Every year the landslides from the 15,000-feet high mountains damage the pipes, and last January the heavy rains washed away large portions of the trail that supports the pipes leading to the natural spring. Sebastian and his fellow farmers are willing to provide the manual labor and to pay for one third of the cost of the new pipes, trails and connections. We are seeking one third of the cost from the municipal government. We need your help to provide for the remaining third.
With your help we can make the sun truly shine for Dona Evarista and her six children. Working together, we can let Doña Evarista know that solidarity, sharing and community support are among our core values.
Please send us your prayers and consider a donation as well. Your financial contributions, no matter the size, will become like the bread and fishes that Jesus multiplied through the miracle of sharing. You can donate here.
Joe Loney and his wife, Filo Siles, are Maryknoll lay missioners in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Through their ministry they help children, youth and adults who have visual, hearing, intellectual, physical and other disabilities receive self-sustaining rehabilitation in their rural home communities. Joe also is Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ regional director for Bolivia.
Photos courtesy of Joe Loney.