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Trip to Santa Cruz

25th – 27th August 2007

As I had booked a holiday to Chile, Bolivia and Argentina, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to visit a lad I have sponsored in Bolivia for a number of years.

I was more than a little apprehensive about my trip to Santa Cruz. It probably wasn’t the safest place for a person travelling on their own and I wasn’t sure if all the travel arrangements would fall into place etc. All my fears were totally unfounded. TAM, the airline I had never heard of, was probably the best of all the airlines I used. We touched down in Paraguay and then at Cochabamba in Bolivia before arriving at Santa Cruz. A transfer had been booked for me and I was met by an English speaking girl plus a driver. It was very warm and I looked forward to some warmth for the next few days. The hotel was a good attempt at a luxury hotel but had a bit of an air of neglect and it wasn’t exactly busy. But it was fine for my purposes.

I was unable to get hold of any one from Compassion when I arrived so again I was a little apprehensive about arrangements for the Sunday. Again I needn’t have been. Before 9am I was met by Tony who was my interpreter for the day. He was well educated and worked for Campus Crusade. During the time we were together I was able to glean a lot of information about Bolivia – state of the church, politics etc.

Around about 9 o’clock the leader of the project walked into the hotel with Bebetto and his grandmother. I hadn’t been expecting to see him quite so soon! A car had been hired for the day so we got in and drove to the town of Campanera where Bebetto came from. I had been told that as it was a Sunday I wouldn’t be able to see the project. Wrong! I was taken to the church which works alongside the project. There must have been a couple of hundred people waiting – mostly children from the project. I was the guest of honour and duly sat at the front. There was a little bit of singing – with electric guitars and then several groups of children performed dances that they had prepared for me. I was presented with a gift and asked to say a few words.

Obviously it meant something to the whole community that I had come. I was only the second sponsor in three years to visit. Sponsors are known as godmothers and godfathers. Somebody made the point that if people are willing to sponsor children they have never seen, they must love them.

Click on a picture to enlarge it.



After this I was taken to Bebetto’s house where he lives with his grandmother and a couple of his brothers. He showed me where he slept and he produced from under his pillow all the letters I had ever written. I gave Bebetto some things I had brought for him. As half the village were following us, Bebetto decided he would look at these things later on his own.

We returned to the project where lunch was served. I sat at a table with Bebetto, his grandmother, the pastor of the church, the leader of the project and Tony to interpret.

After lunch we left the project. We had the use of the car for the rest of the day. By now it was very cold and wet. But we returned to Santa Cruz and had a bit of a look round the city. Tony took us to a very beautiful garden. We had the opportunity for a quick look round in the rain. Then we sat and drank coffee and ate various nibbles. It was such a contrast to Bebetto’s village that to begin with I was quite uncomfortable about being there. But it was good to have the opportunity to sit and talk in a small group. And I hope it was a day that Bebetto enjoyed and will remember for a long time. He was very quiet all day but I was assured that he was happy and I hope that he felt very special.

He is football crazy. His studies have suffered since the death of his father a year or so ago but he may be settling down again.

When I write to him now it will be so much easier as I will be able to picture where he lives and what life is like.

Tony offered to give me a walking tour of Santa Cruz on the Monday morning. There is not a lot there for tourists but I got a feel of what life is like there. After lunch my taxi to the station appeared, along with an English speaking girl. She insisted on staying with me until I had checked in (about an hour!) So at no point during my time in Santa Cruz was I unaccompanied.

In many ways I was out of my comfort zone for these few days, but it was well worth it. I hope I brought something in a small measure to the community I visited. I certainly had a sense of God’s protection and provision at all times.

Sylvia Baxter

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Bebetto and Sylvia.Bebetto outside the church at Campanera.Some of the children outside the church.Electric guitars inside the church.

The congregation.Children performing one of the dances.Bebetto and his Grandmother.At a garden in Santa Cruz.

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