A Day in the Centro Hermano Manolo in Bolivia
The Centro Hermano Manolo is a drop-in centre that provides basic services for at-risk youth in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Almost in the heart of the great market known by everyone as “La Cancha” in Cochabamba, Edmund Rice people carry out a mission that follows in the steps of Blessed Edmund Rice more than two hundred years ago.
Every morning, Brother Alberto starts his routine with a fifteen-minute walk from the Brothers’ community to the Centre’s building. Dodging vendors and hundreds of people on his way, he finally reaches the Centre and opens its main door, rearranges the chairs, opens the curtains and windows, organises the bookshelves and is ready to greet the children and the staff. Sandra Caiguara (director) and Francisco Tuiro (coordinator) arrive almost at the same time as Br. Alberto. Sister Rosario Casas (psychologist, from the Carmelite order) also arrives, and together, they are ready to greet the children. One by one, the working children show up at the Centre’s door.
Some mornings, there may be five children, while on other days there may be over 20! The children are welcomed into a space where respect and trust are the main values shown by everyone.
At 10:30am, there is a short break when a snack is served. After the break, the main activities continue: Francisco visits working children on the streets of the market, Sr. Rosario provides counselling in her small office and follows-up on some cases. Br. Alberto tutors the children and provides help with their homework.
The Centro Hermano Manolo closes its doors for two hours for lunch break, and reopens in the afternoon. Roberto Fernández is always on time to welcome back everyone else. Roberto is a former member of the Centre and a committed student of social work at the University. He is generous with his time and decided to study social work because he would like to work with working children the same way he was supported by the Centre. Little by little, children arrive at the Centre and the small space comes back to life as the volunteers work with the children on Maths, Science, English and Arts.
At around 4:30pm, there is another break and refreshments are served. The staff use every opportunity to talk to the children about various topics. They discuss issues like children’s rights or issues related to Bolivian culture or childhood and adolescence. Some days may vary if a trip is scheduled, if there are birthdays or if an important national holiday is being celebrated.
As the sun goes down and the lights of the city start to light up, the Centro Hermano Manolo's main door is closed for the night.
"We all return home exhausted but with a smile on our faces of satisfaction and gratefulness for having received more than we have given." -Br Alberto Llanos
Adopted from an article written by Br Alberto Llanos