(Note: This is the second story in a series on Bill and Dee Robertson’s recent visit to Bolivia.)BOLIVIA Robertsons and Girl
By Marlys Good
When we left Bill and Dee Robertson last week, they had just met their “sponsor” girls, Marlene and Maria, their mothers, and the Center workers who traveled with them, in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
Translators were provided wherever the Robinsons went, to Centers, homes, shopping, restaurants or sightseeing, and they were kept busy in Cochabamba.
“The translator was really put to the test,” Bill said. “We had to learn quickly to speak in short phrases instead of long discussion points.
“Both girls were glad to hear about Dee’s teaching career,” Bill said. “They could relate a lot more to her than to me since both were still in school and they were able to share common experiences.”
He said he doubted that either family had traveled out of their local area much and really understood what a game warden was, or what wildlife management, was all about.
The Robertsons did a craft with both Maria and Marlene, but then Maria “swam” in the pool with Bill. Dee said. “It was more like clutching the side of the pool. Her mom Alverta joined them, even though she didn’t have a swimsuit. After much coaxing Maria let go of the side and walked into the pool. Marlene and I continued with a craft and I chatted with her mom, Ana. Both Marlene and her mother were very shy; they were much more talkative when all the others were gone.”
Swimming, crafting and playing with the girls ended all too soon. Bill and Dee gave both the girls and their mothers gifts and prayed with them before they left to return to their homes. The goodbyes were said with a promise from the Robertsons that they would be back to see them some time in the future.
Days, aside from the visit with their girls and mothers, were spent with scheduled center visits combined with home visits. Dee said the “centers” were actually local churches that Compassion partnered with to host the sponsored children. “It is a win-win situation. Compassion is able to find neighborhoods that need assistance, and the local churches receive the attention of Compassion and then can develop programs to assist the growth of the children from newborn to high school.
“We spent time in the centers playing games, doing crafts and hugging hundreds of kids. We served lunch to kids, we prayed for the Compassion workers at the centers, the pastors and the parents and learned about many other programs that Compassion does as well as how they handle all the letters that come in and out for the children.”
The home visits, Dee said, were especially heart-rending. “We saw first hand the struggles that single mothers or very low-income families had with day-to-day living. Health concerns, financial concerns, relational concerns, economic concerns were all exposed.”
At the center in LaPaz the Robertsons decided they needed another “sponsor daughter.” Traditionally, they receive pamphlets and literature from churches, Christian Centers, etc. about Compassion, see pictures and information about children in need of sponsors and go from there.
At the center in LaPaz, they met dark-haired, dark-eyed eight-year-old Gloria and knew they would like to sponsor her. The Center then arranged a visit between the Robertsons and Gloria to see if she agreed with the sponsorship. She did and now the Robertsons have three sponsor girls.
The trip to Bolivia left a lasting impression on Bill and Dee.
Bill said his eyes were opened. “We are really wrapped up in ourselves here in America. What has been done right, what has been done wrong, who is more politically correct than the other person. Maybe I missed the nightly news in Cochabamba, but when you’re dealing with where your water, food and warmth are coming from, the silly issues we deal with here just fade away. When we left someone had just won billions of dollars in a lottery. We were soon with families that were hoping to have a dollar a day to live on. We left a country where there was so much fuss over what good things we should be eating or what new-fangled disorder is affecting us, and soon found ourselves dining with families who were just happy to have some chicken and rice. If you hear me complaining about my lifestyle – tell me to shut up!”
Bill added that when they took this vacation, they just had a passion ““to meet two girls whom we invested in over seven years. We didn’t grasp the concept that when you meet families who struggle in poverty, who are being assisted by relief groups like Compassion International, we would be exposed to the very fabric that makes up a society. There is complete awe and fascination in being able to briefly understand the struggles of day-to-day life in a country that very seldom makes news.”
For Dee, her eyes were opened to how important letters are to the children. “Our letters help give hope to the child, and really the whole family. They feel they have value when someone they don’t know writes to them, encourages them and tells them they can be whatever they dream to be. Severe poverty like these children live in, tells them the opposite in many ways; they don’t try to dream. The big idea of Compassion is to change the mindset of the child, the family and the community. When they can dream and be encouraged, they will change their community as well. There are many stories of how a previously sponsored child has become a lawyer, a teacher, a city planner, all because he/she had hope and encouragement.”
Both Robertsons said they will be writing to their “children” more often since they found out how important their letters are to them.
How did this vacation rate among others they have taken?
A complete success, Dee said. “We did very little sightseeing and shopping in a touristy way; that is exactly what we were looking for. The people in Bolivia are the most generous, kind and loving people. We will go back in several years to see those three girls.”