Grant Funding Key to Ministry
Do you want to know what I do in Cochabamba, Bolivia? I am a grant writer for projects directed by Catholic Sisters who work with poor populations. Writing grants is not well known about in Bolivia because most Sisters do not have the time to write them due to the demands of their ministries and their inability to speak English (usually, grantors request use of the English language).
Bolivian Sisters cannot believe I do this work gratis (for free). They question how I support myself. I tell them that it is the contribution of the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, Wisconsin, USA, to the Bolivian mission. They respond that the Congregation and I are included in their daily prayers. I do at least six projects a year from different areas of Bolivia, Brazil, and Colombia and have a waiting list. Here are some examples of the grants I have written and the progress they have made.
Sister Ronalda runs a technical school for indigenous people south of the Amazons in Bolivia. She is trying to teach students and parents the importance of education to avoid the children getting enticed by money from cocaine producers in the area. Producers use the children as mules to transport packages of cocaine across the Brazilian border. Once the child leaves home, she/he never comes back because children are sold to traffickers. I wrote a grant for chairs, tables, sewing and knitting machines, leather work, and carpenter tools. The grant furnished the kitchen for cooking and baking classes. They received the requested money to teach courses. This year, they held their first graduation ceremony, and many graduates are opening their own shops.
Sister Augusta in Fortaleza, Brazil, helps working children experiencing homelessness. The children work washing cars and at other jobs and are exposed to all kinds of exploitations and abuses. Children range in age from 4 to 17 years old. Fortaleza is located at the farthest east corner of Brazil, making it easy for adults to transport kidnapped children and illegal drugs to Africa and Europe. The youth join gangs in the city and commit acts of theft, killing, prostitution, or kidnapping for money. Elderly people are on the streets because families cannot afford to feed them.
The Sisters started teaching the children under streetlights. Then, the parish gave them space, but it was not enough because more children wanted to learn. The Sisters appealed to a donor in Italy to build a large warehouse to teach in, but the children would come to class from work hungry and and in need of a good shower. We wrote a grant to build showers and small rooms with cots and provide food. At present, the after-school programs they offer for children, youth, and adults include arts, crafts, and sports. The program also provides food, showers, and clothing for those in need. The elderly, after spending the day at the Centro where they find food, support, and respect go home at night with a sense of dignity, knowing they are worth something.
Sister Luz Marina started a school in the Bolivian jungle 35 years ago in a single classroom with 27 students of different grades. Today, they have 1,227 students. The government pays teacher salaries. Unfortunately, parents built the first classrooms with materials of the area using hollow reed for the walls, palm branches for the roof, and desks made of tree trunks. They were in desperate need of a new roof and walls. Luckily, they received a grant and now have a real roof over their heads, and the children have well-built desks, tables, computers, and chairs to do their homework.
Sister Elizabeth has a hydrophobic project in the Andes of Bolivia. She has over 400 volunteers who take care of an acre of land to grow vegetables to supply a soup kitchen with organic vegetables to feed those experiencing homelessness. Oruro is in the high mountains, a dry land at an altitude of 13,700 feet. It is very cold all year. It has many mines that have contaminated the land with different chemicals, which makes it hard to produce anything.
Most of the people of the area have a diet of dry meat from llamas and potatoes because imported marketed vegetables are too expensive. The volunteers of this project have gone to teach in the schools about hydrophobic systems and encourage the population in Oruro to practice the growth of hydrophobic vegetables in their own homes. A grant was given to build greenhouses, pipes, water tanks, and seeds.
I could go on describing the different projects I help with, but my point is to let you know that the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters are still holding the mission in Bolivia.