Hey there friends and family, you guys make my life so much more interesting and full of joy 😀 THANK YOU!
I would like to talk about two things. The first one will still be focused on my time in D.C. and something way too awesome that happened while I was there (I said I had a lot of stories right?). And the second one will be focused on my daily work here in Bolivia.
So let’s start.
This particular story is now part of me; I treasure it in my heart and it brings me encouragement when I feel overwhelmed by reality. Moreover, it keeps me on my knees reminding me that ensuring justice is a call that requires more than my abilities.
Every day, IJM offices around the world have something called corporate prayer time. What does it look like? Every single employee, volunteer and even sometimes a visitor, gather in one room and pray. At headquarters they do it at 11:00 a.m. [Here in Bolivia we do it at 12:00 p.m.] So, people from the different departments share praise reports and concerns from IJM offices all around the globe and then, well … they pray.
While we were in orientation week in D.C, one woman stood up and shared that an undercover operation was being held at that very moment in a place I had never heard of. It was somewhere in India! (Yes, I am a horrible person when it comes to geography.) Anyway, she said that they were sure they were going to rescue 16 people — ONLY 16 — so we prayed to God, asking for His favor and for His protection for the team. GUESS WHAT???? The next day, the same woman shared her praise; more than 149 people were rescued in that undercover operation, including a 3 year old girl! I was speechless, but they WERE FREE!!!! (you can read the story here).
Prayer is the first and most important step to all the work we do here. While working with IJM Bolivia now, I have come to appreciate the time of corporate prayer. Every Monday, we pray for all the things we have to do that week, and every Friday we give thanks for the answered prayers and ask for strength and patience for the ones that weren’t answered. It is so good to know that we are not alone in this work of prayer. Sometime our communication department shares with us e-mails from our prayer partners, and these sweet words of love and encouragement can lift up our spirits and give us power to keep going. 😉 (If you are interested in getting specific prayer requests from Bolivia you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can make sure our team adds you to the list).
Changing the topic now, but keep in mind those 149 slaves-no-more in your mind. I would like to tell you about my daily work here. It has been a great time, professionally and personally challenging, and I am learning a lot. And I think I am being helpful too (I hope so! 🙂 ).
As a Community Fellow, I get to attend a bunch of meetings with local authorities, possible strategic partners, and networks that IJM Bolivia is a part of. There is one network I have been working a lot with this month, Network against child sexual assault in La Paz. It is basically non profits and governmental organizations that have decided to work together for the vision of “a society free of sexual assault for girls, boys, and adolescents”. I have helped them with the compilation and development of their internal guidelines, and now we are working on getting the specific activities for the year organized.
I do not have much contact with the actual victims right now. But every day while I am at the office I get to see kids and their legal guardians, talking with our legal or aftercare team. It breaks my heart EVERY SINGLE TIME. I can’t help it. I know that most of them have been victims of sexual assault, and I know some of the cutest babies I get to see here, with big, bright and brown eyes and the sweetest smiles ever, were born as a result of these assaults. I haven´t had the opportunity to go to many hearings or trials. One day I tried, and there were five different court activities that I was going to be able to attend. Four were cancelled and just one actually happen. Sadly, I wasn’t able to participate in that one because there were too many people there. I was kind of frustrated…
To be honest, I was way too frustrated. But it gave me time to talk with the lawyers from our office. They have to face this every day! (I so admire them). They were telling me that in all the cases they have work with, 65% of the time the hearings are suspended because someone doesn’t show up (the judges, the public prosecutor, or the defendant.) IJM lawyers are always there. Sometimes they use the office car to go and pick up as many people as needed to make sure that everyone will show up, sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn´t. The result? Justice is delayed.
(Part II coming next week, there is more in this story ;))
* Don’t forget: If you are able to support me financially you can donate online using the link below. I am really thankful for any amount you could contribute; it may make a difference for me to keep serving on this project.
(Please make sure you select my name ANDREA RODRIGUEZ on the Intern/Fellow section or the donation won’t go toward my fundraising goal. If you are in the USA all donations are tax deductible, and please let me know if you are able to donate, so I can keep track of all donations.)