Dear Father Ned and the parishioners of the three parishes,
Greetings from La Paz, Bolivia.
2015 is coming to an end and it is a time to reflect and also to be very thankful. This year we celebrated 11 years of the Valley of the Moon Nursery, over a thousand children and their families have passed through the doors over this past decade and we look back with wonder and also with gratitude at the amazing achievements that can happen when people from communities form across the world join forces, with love and solidarity.
When we started it seemed like an impossible dream. How could a group of women, mainly indigenous and mostly illiterate, with no financial resources meet the needs of our community to provide a safe and loving place for children? We were worried sick that children were often simply locked up in the house when their parents had to go to work to make ends meet. As well as horrible accidents, when slightly older siblings tried to take care of the little ones; over 70% of the children in the community were malnourished, as there was simply not enough money or time for the parents to prepare nutritional meals at home.
Then as Doña Maxima, who now runs the kitchen of the nursery says, “The Magic Happened, the Stars aligned and our world changed and the lives of our children changed!”
Following a phone call from Father Bernard, a funding proposal was developed by the women to make our dream come true; they organised public mobilisation to close a nearby rubbish dump and they negotiated for a piece of land to build our nursery as compensation for the contamination suffered by the community in previous years. “On this land we will sow flowers, plants and healthy children” they declared on the day the rights of the land were handed to them.
Whilst we built the nursery through community effort – neighbours giving of their time in the evenings and at weekends – my family and I opened temporarily our house to 30 children and so we began, training up local women, finding our feet, learning new skills and growing like the babies that came into our care. Often, we fell and faltered – but the support of our friends and families in the UK that supported us, who believed in us, gave us strength.
As I have said before to Ned, the financial support has been vital, enabling us to sustain the nursery, to cover rising food costs; to supplement the wages of the 10 women who now work in the nursery and to ensure that no child is turned away, especially those from the poorest families who cannot pay the basic monthly fee – but what has been most important has been just knowing that there are people from across the world in Manchester, who have taken us into their hearts, who have share their love, solidarity and belief that we can build a better future for the children and the families of Mallasa.
Amazing volunteers, such as Rachel Chidgey, Lizzie Moley and Alice Kelly have come over to Bolivia from the three parishes, dedicating months to work side by side the women in the nursery. They brought the donations you have raised and they were able to see first-hand the difference they make in the lives of the children and the families. For example, Rachel was able to cover the wages when the money could not stretch to pay the women, many of whom are single mothers. She paid the women directly from the money the 3 parishes had raised. Lizzie saw how the babies were sleeping 2 or 3 to a cot and the older ones like sardines, side by side on old mattresses and she was able to invest the donations directly to buy new cots and beds and provide a shaded area for the children to play outdoors, protected by the fierce rays of the Andean Sun. Alice was able to see how the carpets we bought with the donations, enabled the babies to crawl on the floor safely and not suffer from the cold.
The nursery is flourishing as are our children – levels of malnutrition have dropped dramatically; local feeder schools in the area say that the children who have graduated from the nursery are bright, confident and have a love of learning which is reflected in higher educational attainment that they go on to achieve throughout primary school. The families, many of whom are still very poor, find strength and support through the nursery parents association and the opportunities they have to go out to work to meet the basic needs of their children, knowing that their little one are being well looked after, fed and loved.
The continuing commitment of the three parishes moves and inspires us. When I came back home to Manchester a couple of years ago I was lucky enough to participate in your Talent Show to raise funds for the valley of the Moon Nursery. When I told my community in Mallasa they were infected by your enthusiasm and they decided to organise their own “Mallsa`s Got Talent” to mirror the solidarity, creativity and talent in Sale and Partington. We have now had two of these shows to raise money locally. They have been such joyful events and I feel incredibly humble and privileged that I have been able to witness two such diverse communities uniting through song, dance, and comedy to support the children.
Thank you for your continued to support, it makes a world of difference to us and inspires us.
with love, gratitude and thanks
Emma and the children and families of the Valley of the Moon Children’s Centre