Monday, October 26, 2009

Accusations against Colonia Ecologica and Charity Bolivia

We regret that we are writing with some extremely sad and shocking news about Colonia Ecologica, the project that we have been supporting since 2004. It is our duty as a charity governed by UK law to be honest, open and transparent in all our transactions; therefore we are writing to you to inform you of the current situation.

Over the course of the last two weeks there have been a series of spurious and appalling accusations made by the Bolivian press about Colonia, about our charity, Charity Bolivia, and about Francisco Villanueva (Kiko) the founder of the project. These include allegations of sexual abuse and procurement of children for foreign adoption. This follows on from the closure of another Cochabamba children’s home last month.

We take these allegations very seriously and they should be properly investigated. At the same time, our website has been mistranslated and misquoted to invent these lies and we categorically deny any wrongdoing. We have been advised to state for the record that we operate as a fundraising charity for the project, and have no management role at Colonia Ecologica. The project was set up long before we became involved, and is managed independently.

As Charity Bolivia, we have always operated in good faith, in a transparent manner and accordance with our mission statement. We are therefore devastated to have to tell you that the residential part of children’s home was closed on Wednesday 13th October to the distress of all the children. Kiko was then arrested on Thursday afternoon for the alleged abuse of 3 children.

Following a subsequent ruling by the judge, we have since heard that the
non-residential part which helps children in the afternoons with school work has been allowed to remain open. As a result the trustees have decided to continue support payments to the project until we know more. Our prime concern is and always has been for the welfare of the children at the project who we do not believe to be at risk. For all of those who donate monthly payments to the charity, it is your choice as to whether or not these continue, and we fully understand any decision you make.

We know Kiko and Carmen personally, we trust them completely and correspond with them regularly. We therefore find it impossible to believe that there is any truth in any of the accusations and we still retain our faith in Kiko. As well as legal representation, Kiko and Carmen are also receiving local support - many of the families whose children they helped have been demonstrating and protesting Kiko’s innocence.

We would like to thank all donors sincerely for all your support. We will keep you informed of events as we get more concrete news and will do our best to answer individual queries.

Yours faithfully
Claire and Gertjan
Charity Bolivia

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Journalistic Contamination

If you have followed the news about Colonia Ecologica please click here and read the news article shown in the local newspaper in Cochabamba, Bolivia.


Si usted ha seguido las noticias sobre Colonia Ecologica, por favor hagar click aqui y leen el artículo de noticias demostrado en el diario local en Cochabamba, Bolivia.


Los Tiempos, Cochabamba, Bolivia
Contaminación periodística
Por García Angelo Miguel - Periodista Invitado - 17/10/2009

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Car boot sale

In July, Gertjan and I raised some money for Colonia Ecologica (and also cleared out a lot of our stuff!) by selling our unwanted items, and those donated by friends and family, at a car boot sale in Burcott. We did a roaring trade and managed to get rid of a lot of stuff before the torrential rain set in at midday. In the end we raised just under £100, which was a good morning's work! We now also have space in our loft and camper van again! Thanks to all who donated things for us to sell.
Claire

Sunday, July 19, 2009

3 Peaks Challenge - Completed

Dear all,

Thank you all so much for sponsoring me. The event is now over but I will keep this page open for another week or so. You have all been very generous and your sponsorship is much appreciated. The money raised will go to Colonia Ecologica in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

About the challenge: We got the Gold Medal. It was a tough 24 hrs or should I say 17 hrs and 43 mins!! Only 13mins away from a platinum medal! We started the challenge at 18:40hr in Scotland. It was a very hot day but luckily we didn't have to start too early. The weather wasn't in our favour as it was too hot to set an even better time. 112 teams joined the event and we came 19th overall, the second fastest gold medal.

These are the times of the 3 climbs:

Ben Nevis: start - 18:40 / top - 20:33 / finish - 21:42 / total - 3:02hrs

Scafell Pike: start - 05:13 / top - 6:38 / finish - 7:37 / total - 2:24

Snowdon: start - 12:54 / finish - 14:16 / total - 1:22

A total of 11hrs is added as driving time. This time is the same for all the participating teams. We also had five minutes taken off for our kit check on Scafell Pike, giving us a total of 17 hrs 43 minutes.

Thanks again for your support. Don't worry if you think you have to sponsor me again next year, I don't think I will be able to do this ever again! It takes a lot out of you and you have to train very hard (especially if you have a desk job like me).

A special thanks to Claire (my wife) and Carina (my 2 year old daughter) for putting up with me through the training period. I will now be able to spend more time with them and do more enjoyable things. I would also like to thank Claire's parents for putting up the team at one of our training weekends and helping to look after Carina during the actual event.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

3 Peaks Challenge

I have set up a page on JustGiving.com to raise money for Colonia Ecologica. All money raised here will go directly to the completion of the Radio hut. For more information visit www.charity-bolivia.org

I am taking part in the Three Peaks Challenge 2009, climbing the highest mountains in mainland Britain in under 24 hours. We are attempting to complete the climb in under 19 hours for the Gold medal, and we may try for the Platinum medal, under 17.5 hours. Details are given below;

To climb consecutively the highest peaks in SCOTLAND (Ben Nevis 4,406 ft), ENGLAND (Scafell 3,206 ft), & WALES (Mount Snowdon 3,560 ft), also the travelling of 500 miles between the 3 Peaks, (by minibus) in under 24 hours.
Distance on foot = 20 miles (31 kms)
Height gained = 10,000 feet (3,050m)
Distance by road = 500 miles (800 kms)

If you would like to sponsor me for this event, please follow the instructions on this page. You could sponsor a fixed amount, and/or an extra amount per hour for each hour below 24 hours in which we complete the Challenge - giving us an incentive to go faster.

Donating through Justgiving is quick, easy and totally secure. It’s also the most efficient way to sponsor me: Charity Bolivia gets your money faster and, if you’re a UK taxpayer, Justgiving makes sure 25% in Gift Aid, plus a 3% supplement, are added to your donation.

Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Reflections from Stephanie and Roberto, two volunteers

Here is a summary from Stephanie and Roberto who spent some time earlier this year volunteering at Colonia. They had a huge impact on Colonia in the time they were there and their contributions were hugely appreciated by Kiko, Carmen and all the children.

Summary of our month in Colonia Ecologica, February 2009
As part of our 4-month trip across South America, my husband Roberto and I decided to spend time volunteering in Bolivia. We are both Spanish speakers (Roberto is Chilean, I am half Argentinean) and we wanted to discover Bolivia, a neighbouring country, from a social point of view as opposed to purely as tourists passing through. Our month at the Colonia Ecologica exceeded all our expectations in terms of what we were able to achieve in such a short time and what we learned from the children. As a civil engineer, Roberto was able to apply his technical construction skills in a myriad of different activities. He built a thermal solar panel from scratch (to heat water through the sun’s rays) with a group of 8 boys AND girls, using recycled and new materials and a lot of inventiveness. It was a race against the clock but, on our penultimate day, the shower was turned on and hot water came pouring down! The joy on everyone’s faces was uplifting and very moving. The thermal solar panel will be used by the children to wash before and after swimming in the pool. Kiko’s plan is also to encourage the 8 boys and girls to present a smaller version of the panel at an annual school science competition. If they manage this, there is no doubt they will win! Roberto was also busy repairing leaky roofs, designing a better drainage system & looking into better chlorine systems for the pool, among other stuff. I taught English every afternoon to two separate groups: the advanced children with whom I designed a magazine entirely written by them (in English!), and the beginners with whom I sang English songs, played bingo and generally tried to increase their understand of basic vocabulary and expressions. One month isn’t long enough at all unfortunately, but there are many other English-speaking volunteers at the Colonia who will continue these lessons.
One of the most important activities we were involved in was the implementation of a new water purification system through the sun’s rays. When we first heard of the simplicity of this method, we were astounded to find that this wasn’t more widely applied in all sunny, developing countries. SODIS stands for Solar Disinfection. It works by filling transparent, 2L plastic bottles with clear water (from a tap, a river or a well) and letting the bottles out in the sunshine for 6 hours (ideally from 9am to 3pm) on a roof or steady ledge. The combination of heat and UV rays not only warms the water but also kills all bacteria and pathogens. Many PhD papers have been written about this. Please see www.sodis.ch for more info. We worked with SODIS Cochabamba to implement this system in order to provide the children with safer drinking water than what they currently receive from the grid (which doctors warn against). There is now a dedicated SODIS corner and it seems the children in charge of implementing it have done a super job!
The Colonia is extremely well maintained. They have very good home, sanitary & study installations, with a proper bed & wardrobe for every one of the 34 children who live in the house permanently. They may not have hot running water for everyone’s showers but Kiko and Carmen both believe that cold showers are good for the spirit! They receive hot meals every day and a very affectionate, loving, collaborative family environment in which to grow up. It’s a happy place and, while nothing beats having a Mum and Dad to take care of you, Kiko and Carmen dedicate their entire days (and some nights) to making sure everyone is cared for, studies hard, is well nourished, makes friends and receives adult advice on everything ranging from dental hygiene to sexual education. It’s a wonderful place to grow up and many of the older children are aware of and thankful for everything Kiko and Carmen have sacrificed to make the Colonia what it is. We just hope the Colonia continues to offer support to these and many other Bolivian children who deserve nothing less.
Stephanie Dazin
May 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Volunteering at Colonia Ecologica

This is taken from a blog entry from two volunteers, Stephanie and Roberto, who went out to work at Colonia at the start of this year.

"Volunteering in Colonia Ecologica has been incredible. We are both happy and motivated. Roberto has immersed himself in his duties with gusto. He is building a thermo-solar panel (to heat water) with a group of 9 kids aged 13 to 20. It´s not easy but he is really dedicated to the task. He teaches from 6 to 7pm every day, on Saturday mornings and on Sunday mornings. He is also busy helping out with the pool which has gone green and other bits and bobs related to construction, water supply and mathematics. There is so much to do... it´s never-ending!


I teach English every day for an hour. With the more advanced kids, I decided to create a magazine in English. I divided them into groups of 4 and each group is in charge of a section. We have Food, Fashion, Sport, World Music and Movie People. It´ll have to be entirely written in English. I am really impressed with this group. They are really great! The other group (the beginners) are a handful... some are really eager to learn more vocab but there are 2 very disruptive boys in the class who distract the others and make unhelpful comments during the entire lesson. C´est la vie. If they learn only 2 new words a day, I´m still happy!

When I don't teach English, I play with the younger kids and a really tiny puppy (with more fleas than hairs). We are at the Colonia for about 4 hours each day, after the kids come back from school. 35 kids sleep and live in the Colonia (ie have no parents) while about 60 come only in the afternoons and go home at 7pm. The Colonia is very well maintained, I wish you could see it. They have a main building with the bedrooms, kitchen, dining room; and then about 8 or so "study rooms" which are little individual houses or huts with a different theme in each: Africa, Chalet (made entirely of wood), Numeros (with lots of numbers painted on the walls), a teepee etc and they spend about 3 hours each afternoon in their study rooms doing homework. The garden is big with a pool, a football pitch and a big area for cultivation where they have sugar cane and maze for now. The group in charge of gardening prepared two more patches of earth last week which will be planted with something this week. No idea what yet.

The Colonia is a very positive, moving place, where the kids learn about responsibilities, work, study and team work. Of course they fight and there are tears but overall you can tell they love to be here. Kiko and Carmen are the two adults in charge. They have three biological children, but the others also call them Mamá and Papá. Kiko and Carmen have sacrificed everything for the Colonia: no weekends, no holidays, no time off, no savings, no earnings and no privacy. They used to be teachers, but 14 years ago gave it all up. Now they have over 30 sons and daughters and have managed to grow the Colonia from a tiny collection of tents to a well-established, safe, constructive, growing environment.

Of course the Colonia requires a lot of help from outside: donations of clothes, books, pens, food, you name it, come in at irregular intervals from people in Cochabamba. They also receive money from the US, the UK and Switzerland which allows them to buy the stuff they need. Noone goes hungry, everyone has a clean bed with sheets, a toothbrush and they all get two hot meals a day. Still, they will soon need to replace the batteries from the solar panels that provide them with electricity or they will be left in the dark - this is of major concern to Roberto. The kids need more school books to write in, their shoes aren´t really adequate (especially for some of the heavy building work they get involved in) and it would be great if they could build at least 2 more study rooms.
We´ve been incredibly moved by the Colonia. The kids are all fighters who cope with challenging situations, nose bleeds, mud on their faces or dry bread and just get on with it. In 2 weeks we continue travelling, which means there is little time left to build the solar panel and finish the magazine. Manos a la obra... "

Thank you to Stephanie and Roberto for all their hard work and enthusiasm during their time at the project, they have made a big difference in a relatively short time, for which we are all grateful.