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Santa Cruz, Bolivia

It all began in 2002 when I was given an opportunity to co-lead a group of young people on a trip to Bolivia. I had been looking for new opportunities and adventures in my life, and was seeking what God had for me and my future. I was particularly interested in overseas opportunities. I had always been interested in Latin America, but never considered Bolivia. The trip was through Mennonite Mission Network with a program called Youth Venture. We spent 21 days as a team working to complete the ground level portion of Iglesia Evangelica Menonita Principe de Paz (Prince of Peace Mennonite Church). After arriving in Santa Cruz and getting to know the people there, we all fell in love. As a result of that trip, I knew God had bigger plans for me and Bolivia.

I went to Bolivia again by myself in February 2003. I led another group of young people, along with my new husband, in July of 2004, and then returned again in 2008. That time my husband and I went with our 3-year-old son and 10 young women. Our job was to break ground on the new building for Guarderia Samuelito (Samuelito Daycare), and begin building its foundation.  **You can read more about that trip here: Bolivia 2008 (when you get to the bottom click on “older posts”)

Guarderia Samuelito is located in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Santa Cruz. The people in this community, many of which are single mothers, have to work just to feed their families. Since most can’t afford any sort of childcare, they are often forced to leave their young children home alone so they can work. This is clearly a poor choice, as these children, most under the age of 6, are left alone to care for themselves. More than 5 years ago, the Mennonite Church saw this need and knew they had to do something about it. They started a small daycare inside Iglesia Evangelica Menonita Esmirna (Esmirna Mennonite Church). This served them well for 5 years, but the space just wasn’t large enough for the growing needs in the community. In 2007, the Bolivian Mennonite Church (made up of 7 small congregations in and around Santa Cruz) purchased some land on which they planned to build a new daycare facility. This land is a short walk from the church where the daycare began.

In 2008 our group cleared the new land and began constructing the foundation on which the daycare would be built. This consisted mainly of digging ditches and pouring cement that we mixed in piles on the ground. Seven months later, 4 classrooms, 2 bathrooms, and a kitchen were complete. There is so much more they would like to add to the building, but they can only do what the money allows. When the money runs out the construction stops. When more money comes, they continue building. No borrowing money here, and no operating on debt. They operate totally on faith, waiting on God to provide.

My husband, son and I plan to return this summer to help wherever we can. We will likely help with some construction, as my husband has many years of construction experience. We will also see what other needs are there, and help where we can. I want to learn more about the sponsorship program that the daycare has created, and see how I can become involved with that on a long-term basis. We would also like to take a good chunk of change with us to give to the daycare to help with building costs. I recently learned that it costs $6000 to complete a room. I would love to be able to financially help them build a room from start to finish. In order to pay our expenses, as well as donate money to Samuelito, we hope to raise $10,000 before we leave in early June. We hope to have most of that raised by the end of April, but we actually have until the end of May to have it collected.

This is a lot of money and I have worried, myself, about whether or not we can raise what we need. But I hold on to what my Bolivian friend, Yovana, told me as we were chatting on the internet several weeks ago: ” God is at work in this project. God will provide.”

Here are some ways you can help:

You can certainly donate money yourself. Every donation, large or small, helps. But here is another way you can help. What if you rallied your friends together to help us reach our goal.

If we found 100 people who each committed to $100, we would meet our goal.

  • Maybe you and 9 other friends would each contribute $10.
  • Or maybe you and 4 other friend would each donate $20.
  • Or maybe 4 of you have $25 each.

You get the picture. And if you want to raise or donate more, you are certainly welcome to do that.

You could also get a group together to do a fundraiser.

  • Maybe you are part of a Sunday School class that is looking for a great project to become involved with.
  • Or maybe your co-workers would like to join together to help provide a safe and caring place for these women to leave their children while they earn a living.
  • Or, perhaps, you just have a group of friends who would like to join with us to support a need.

I know there are so many great places out there to give your money. If you chose to send some our way, we would be honored. If you can’t do that right now, we certainly understand. If you would like follow our updates about our trip, I will be linking all our blog posts to my Facebook page (just make sure we are friends). If you would rather receive notice of updates by e-mail please let me know and make sure I have your e-mail address.

If you would like to donate, you can do so in one of 2 ways. You can mail a check made out to me to: 4962 Barella Dr, Antioch, TN 37013. Or you can send it through paypal to my email address: gina@walczakphotography.com. If you would like a receipt, please let me know and I can have one sent to you.

You can also learn more about Samuelito and the community it serves by watching the following videos (click on the bolded sections).

We hope this gives you a little bit of a glimpse into the world of Guarderia Samuelito. We would love for you to follow along with us as we tell the story of Guarderia Samuelito and the people who serve there and those who are served by God’s love.

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