This past week I had the privilege of helping with the annual camp put on for Ayore girls. For many years our teammates, Mirtha , Sandra , Toni and others have invested so much time, effort and energy in reaching these girls. It became clear through their work that it was far easier to prevent the prostitution of young girls than it was to get the older experienced girls to stop. For a long time occasional weekend retreats were held to spend some intensive time with the girls and build relationships, but about 6 years ago, the idea of putting together a week long camp was formed. Although weekly Bible Studies in the community were making some change, the opportunity to help the girls ‘retreat’ from their normal circumstances and have time to silence some of the heavily negative influences surrounding them was the perfect option for having time to express to each girl their worth and value, especially in God’s sight.
|Sandra doing a morning devotional|
So every year, our team works together with several other organizations to hold a week long camp for 8-18 year olds (who are not yet married). These girls come from 6 different communities near Santa Cruz and this year we had around 82 girls. I know the girls from the communities look forward to this week every year, since any time we visit they are always asking about it!
|Camp Store "Kiosko" - helps prevent campers from leaving the campus to go buy candy or gum etc.|
|Feeding a small army! Around 100 people fed each meal!|
The staff is very multicultural, which I love. Every year there has been a small team of North American college students to help, Bolivian volunteers from local churches and each community sends 1-2 adult women from the Ayore church to help as well. We spend significant time in praise and worship, chronological Bible stories, crafts (which the girls love) and games. This year featured a slip n slide!!
|Learning traditional weaves during craft time|
One of the highlights of the week was ‘Princess Night’ where everyone dresses up and has a nice dinner together. We put together decorations and special music. We as leaders also dress up as an example of how to dress nicely and use appropriate amounts of makeup while still looking pretty. The entire purpose of the night is to emphasize our worth as children of God (hence, the princess theme) and to spend some time talking about how valuable each person is to God and should never be given up on, or thrown out. This is particularly relevant in a culture where girls are ‘sold’ for sometimes less than a dollar. Our identity as children of the King is a huge part of what we would love to see these girls internalize, respecting themselves and others.
|Mirtha on right with girls from Poza Verde community|
|Princess Night Decorations|
|Prince Charming is excited to greet the princesses!|
A few things stuck out to me as I spent time with the girls this week, and they are all very random thoughts (since Ezer didn’t let me sleep more than 2 hours in a row at night all week long)….so bear with me!
Prince Charming was exhausted from being passed around all the time
1. It’s always a little chaotic, trying to encourage the girls to participate and pay attention, particularly during story time. Often it feels like (and looks like) no one is hearing anything you say. As an oral story telling culture however, the girls have a remarkable ability to multitask while listening and, at the end of the week during the Bible quiz time, the amount of information the girls retained regarding the stories was incredible. Of course it helps to be motivated by a few simple prizes!
|Carol teaches a Bible Story|
|Sister Jenny helps her campers put on a skit depicting the Exodus|
|Mirtha during Bible Quiz time at the end of week|
|Sister Blanca helped with cooking ALL week- Empanadas YUMMY!|
3. I am privileged. I have so much and these girls have so little. There was a couple of days of camp where it got cold (50s with a brisk wind) and I was able to call Jason to bring me extra blankets and layers for me and Ezer while some of the girls only had their shorts and t-shirts. Another little girl only had one outfit the whole week, but when someone let her borrow a beautiful dress for “princess night”, the look of joy and pride on her face was heart-warming.
|Making Friends! Mayra is 4 months old|
|Playing with the girls!|
|The three 'men' of the week- (ages 3, 14 months and 8 months)|
|Victoria (our summer intern) and I taking just a moment in the kitchen|
If you are interested in more photos, please check out the Bolivia Bound group on Facebook. If you are not a part of this group (or our Facebook friend) and you would like to be, send us a note!