A Story About Human Decency in La Paz

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By Robert Walker
La Paz is a giving and kind city and there are many stories of people helping other people. This is one of them that occurred recently.
The Rotary Club, Bahia de La Paz, has been working in a poor, primary school for the last seven years. 23 fruit trees have been planted and are doing well. School supplies has been provided to students and teachers each year. Complete architectural plans for a kitchen and eating area have been presented to the government for construction. This is to name just a few of the projects there.
This year the Rotary Club Bahia de La Paz decided to take on the huge challenge of sending the kids that deserved to go to Secundaria (middle school) and Preparatoria (high school). They applied for a Rotary International grant that would guarantee four more years for each student if the local club came up with the money for the first year.
The difference of going past the first 6 years of Primary school is the difference of a 13-year old boy or girl begging for work and maybe getting 50 pesos a day when they do find work. It is the difference of 14-year old girls having babies in their arms, instead of being the new assistant teller at a bank at 18, or bilingual agent at Avis rent a car. It is literally an all or nothing chance at having a fulfilling life for a 12-year old in La Paz.
There were twelve students who qualified both with grades and deportment. The local Rotary Club came up with the money for six, and some of the uniforms. These uniforms were collected at the end of the last semester from private schools by the club, and all were washed and re-sewn where needed by Ed and Teri Moore.
What happened next is how their decency and kindness can multiply.
Club Cruceros de La Paz, a local yachting group, donated $500.00 US, which meant that two more kids would go to school.
The day came to meet with the kids who were going to school, and make sure their parents had enrolled them and paid the tuition. (Tuition is the small cost compared to uniforms, backpack and supplies.) A boy showed up, clean cut, quiet with his report card in his hand, hoping somehow he could also be chosen. But he was number nine and the club only had the funds for eight. He left quietly when told there was only money for eight.
When two members of the club went dancing that night with friends, those friends (Marylin and Will Imanse) gave 950 pesos on the spot for the boy who originally didn’t get a scholarship, when they heard his story.
When that donation was explained on the VHF Club Cruceros radio program here in La Paz the next morning, a woman’s voice responded and said she would like to hear more about the program. We met with Rita Coy and she did two things. She completed the boy’s scholarship, and then asked if there were more kids. We answered three more.
Rita primed their pump also, making the total the entire twelve children who had worked for and deserved further education going to Secundaria.
Those four young kids were one day late for school, but a lifetime ahead in being able to have a decent job, a family with medical care, and a mortgage for a house and food on the table.
Come October when the weather changes, my Rotary friends and I will be out twisting arms for some more matching grants to get warm coats and in some cases, shoes for the winter for these kids and school supplies for the next semester. Anyone wanting to contribute any amount let me know now that it ok to bug you then. If you have a group (formal or informal) that would like to hear more, contact me.
For those of you who know about the incredibly successful FANLAP program in La Paz, we have modeled ours exactly after theirs.
There is a word in every language that says thank you. It can be used for something as simple as opening a door for someone, or changing a young persons entire life. A big Muchas Gracias from those twelve children to the many that helped in this project!
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