The German brothers Edward and Enrique Rosenthal were studying media production at the Central University of Cochabamba, Bolivia. One day, as they were walking home after class, they were approached by an elderly beggar woman. She pointed to a small child at her side. Unfortunately, she spoke only Quechua, one of the ancient Inca languages, and the two students could not understand a word. Then someone began to translate. The beggar woman asked the young men to take the child with them because his parents had died. She wanted to give the orphan a better future. Unfortunately, Edi and Eni could not help the woman. But the experience made them very thoughtful. They remembered the Kowoll family from Germany who had founded a children’s charity and contacted L’ESPERANCE Kinderhilfe. They implored them to found a children’s village in Bolivia as well.
The country is one of the poorest in South America. More than half of the children live in poverty and have no access to education. Often children run away from home because they experience poverty or violence there and live on the streets, making them potential victims of exploitation, drug and alcohol abuse, crime, human trafficking and violence. Out of every 1000 children, 75 die before they reach 5 years of age, from poverty and malnutrition. Many babies are simply abandoned because families are unable to feed them.
L’ESPERANCE decided to help. The parents of the two students were asked to look for a suitable plot of land the next time they visited their sons. As with the founding of all L’ESPERANCE facilities, God worked here as well. A large plot of land was purchased at an affordable price. In 1998, the L’ESPERANCE Children’s Village of San Mateo was founded to provide a home for needy children. It is located at the foot of the Andes in the warm, humid rainforest of the Amazon basin on the San Mateo River, which lended the children’s village its name. The soil here is very fertile and deep, the climate ideal for growing all kinds of fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, not only the vegetables grow well, but also the jungle, which would overgrow everything within a very short time. We have to fight against it permanently with machetes to keep the cultivation areas free.
In the children’s village there are now 6 family houses with 10 children each, a staff house and two houses for volunteers. Agriculture is the main occupation of the children’s village, along with carpentry, bakery and a small apiary. Avocado, corn, beans, peanuts, rice, cassava, green beans, walusa (a type of potato) and sugar cane, as well as tomatoes and peppers are planted on the grounds. Fruit crops include oranges, grapefruits, pineapples, lemons, kumquats, palm fruits, camu camu trees, copuazú, and 600 to 800 banana trees.
Through the different branches of income generation, we have achieved a double effect: On the one hand, the products we produce contribute to our livelihood, and on the other hand, the sectors serve as places of formation for our older orphans.
In May 2019, Rozelito and Alek Sandra Croscop from the L’ESPERANCE school in Brazil took over. Through their experience and energy, renovations and reorganizations took place. Many activities are offered for the children among others a scout group that bakes together, sings, prays, helps neighbors or cuts its way through the jungle.
Between the river and the edge of the forest, there is now cheerful life. But again and again emergency calls reach us. For abandoned babies, for children from unspeakable conditions places are sought that we no longer have in houses that are yet to be built. The story of L’ESPERANCE de Bolivia does not end here, because the need also has no end.