Posted by Tim on 31st January 2011
In the poorest country in South America, young people have little hope for the future. Over 80% of Bolivian children live in extreme poverty, and 80,000 of them are addicted to drugs. Many children are abused, trafficked or simply abandoned by parents unable to care for them. Tunari Treasures is a small not-for-profit Foundation making a difference for the lucky few in the heart of the country, Cochabamba. They are training up a group of disadvantaged young men, some of whom come to them through Compassion and others from an orphanage. Teaching them metalwork helps them stand a better chance of earning a living in the future. As well as being taught practical skills, the students are also taught administration and life skills, so that they are more rounded and capable individuals when they graduate.
When the students finish the course, they will have the skill set to design, produce, work out the cost of products and sell them. They’ll also know how to do some basic administration. This will help them set up their own small business, so they’re not dependent on finding an (often abusive) employer. In addition, because they are mentored as well as trained, they will have personal integrity, respect for others and for themselves and, most importantly, a deeper understanding and knowledge of God.
Gray and Andrea Parker, who set up Tunari Treasures in 2004 after moving with their family to Bolivia to work with Latin Link, now employ a team of Bolivians to share the responsibility. Their aim is that one day Bolivians will take the project on. Gray commented after six students recently graduated:
During the graduation ceremony I realised that this was the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done. I thought to myself “if I never do anything else in mission again, I feel I’ve made an important impact in the lives of these 6 lads”. It was brilliant. One of the lads, Wilson, gave an impromptu speech, saying to the other lads (who’ve only just completed half the course) that the certificate he had just received wasn’t just to be thrown away, but really meant something. Wilson was the one who 8 months ago nearly got chucked out of the course for breaking some ground rules. The leader of the Compassion project where he goes says Wilson is a different person!
Graduation isn’t the end of the relationship between the staff of Tunari Treasures and their students. Even after the lads go on to get jobs, or start their own businesses, staff will continue to monitor and mentor them, to help them navigate the difficult path into self-sufficiency. There are also plans to make private business loans to graduates of up to £600 in order to help them set up their own small enterprises.
The biggest problem facing Tunari Treasures is, unsurprisingly, financial. The students are charged a nominal 20 Bolivianos per month (about £2). The real cost of their training is twenty five times that. Moreover, the programme has attracted such positive attention that Tunari Treasures has been asked to look at the possibility of opening more training centres in other cities. This of course requires a lot more logistical support, premises costs and the training of new staff.
- Please pray for the staff of Tunari Treasures to be able to effectively train and mentor young men, and help release them from the bondage of poverty and low self-esteem.
- Thank God for the young men who have graduated and pray that they will find employment and take ownership of their lives
- Ask God to provide more funding so that this valuable work can be expanded to help more people. They would really like to have their own premises so that they can be truly independent.
If you would like to donate to Tunari Treasures, go to http://www.latinlink.org/Donate.aspx and where it says “support a person or associated project” choose “project” and then scroll to “Gray and Andrea Parker: Tunari Treasures”.