A short trip to Montero, Bolivia

The construction of the Mama Joanna Guest House is complete, but the building must be furnished before it can be used. The Rotary Club of Highlands, Mountaintop with help from the noonday Highlands Rotary Club and the Waynesville Sunrise Rotary Club all collaborated to get a grant from Rotary International and District 7670 for $40,000 to fully equip the eight bedroom house. All the bedrooms have private bath rooms and air-conditioners.


A furnished room in Montero, Bolivia at the Mama Joanna Guest House.

Volunteers from all over the world frequent Montero to offer help in many different ways. The Highlands Bolivian Mission has been assisting the poor in Bolivia for 21 years. First, the mission was concerned with equipping the General Hospital that had little in the way of modern medical paraphernalia. They didn’t even have an electrocardiograph, let alone defibrillators, respirators or cardiac monitors. Next, the mission focused on housing as the homemade dwellings were made of free supplies, like adobe and palm fronds. The problem with homes like these is an insect lives in the dirt walls and causes the inhabitants to develop Chagas disease, an insidious illness that eventually affects the heart and nervous system 20-30 years after the first infection. By providing safe housing, this dreaded illness can be prevented. The mission has built 14 houses in several communities over the years.

We noticed immediately another problem: young abandoned boys were roaming the streets trying to earn a few Bolivianos helping people park their cars and other tasks. Abandoned girls went to orphanages, but the boys were left to fend for themselves, often becoming drug addicts or alcoholics. Coca leaves are legal in Bolivia and small bottles of alcohol can be bought for only one Boliviano, about 14 cents. We opened our foster home four years after the mission began and welcomed five boys. One of those boys came to the United States and is now in business and one other boys is still in the Hogar, as the foster home is called here. Education and hard work are the main focus of the home and all the boys are polite and well-mannered and all do their chores without having to be told twice. There are now 23 children in the home and it is a loving place to learn what an ideal family is all about, so these children, when they grow up and become parents, won’t abandon their offspring.

The first group of volunteers to use the home will arrive in November and work in a clinic doing cataract and other eye operations. Part of the Rotary Grant is educating the boys in the home to run the Guest House as a business, doing the accounting, with oversight, marketing and housekeeping. They will earn a salary just like a regular business. The experience gained from this work will help them throughout their adult years and the fees earned from the business will help sustain the home for many years to come.

The Bolivian Mission is beginning to recruit volunteers to come in the March or April of 2019 or the fall. The cost of the trip including lodging and transport is about $2,000 for ten days. Children of high school age are always welcome as are youth groups and individuals. Contact John Baumrucker at 526-3605 for more information. Donations for the landscaping and general upkeep of the foster home are always appreciated. These can be mailed to P. O. Box 295, Scaly Mountain, N.C. 28775. All donations are tax deductible as the Highlands Bolivian Mission is a 501C3 charity, ID number 20-4811983.

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