Helping Bolivia youth build better futures through the arts. Ayudando a la juventud boliviana a crear un mejor futuro a través del arte.
THE STREETS OF COCHABAMBA
Bolivia has the highest poverty rate in South America. Nationwide, nearly 900,000 children live on the streets or work in difficult, degrading, and dangerous conditions to support their families. Recently the city of Cochabamba has experienced high population growth, largely due to the migration of rural families searching for a better life. Sadly, the life they find here isn’t what they hoped for, and the economic and social difficulties they find here often seem insurmountable.
Performing Life (PL) is a grassroots NGO founded by American John Connell, who at 16 moved to Cochabamba and began supporting himself as a street performer. Living on the streets with the city’s poorest children, John learned firsthand about the dangers they face: hunger, drugs, crime, exploitation, and, for some, death. In 2006 John began a social rehabilitation program for these youth, initially teaching circus skills to help them earn more and leave the streets behind. Since that first class, PL has served more than 2,000 youth and members of their families.
Currently PL works with more than 70 children in three programs: Circus Arts; Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts; and Crafts. 100% of participants in the Circus Program are now living with their families or in foster care, and all are attending school. During their time with PL, all youth receive daily meals, dental care, and academic support. Some of the youth that originally started with John now teach classes, while those in the Music Program have produced critically acclaimed albums. Furthermore, families participating in the Crafts Program receive nearly 100% of the proceeds from the sale of their beautiful products abroad.
FINANCIAL NEEDS OF PERFORMING LIFE
PL began 2013 with an ambitious plan to expand to Quillacollo, one of the largest and least developed communities in the area. With our new location and activities we can offer more children and their families – approximately 200 people per year – the opportunity to build a better future for themselves through the arts. Most importantly, the requested funds would ensure the sustainability of the new office, classrooms and cafeteria in Quillacollo by allowing us to secure these facilities rent-free through an “anticrético” contract. This legal agreement, common in Bolivia, is a loan between the property owner and current occupant (here, PL), with the property held as collateral in case of repayment default by the owner. With this contract, PL would be able to reinvest these funds every two years, ending the need for similar funds in the future. Furthermore, the requested funds would also allow us to pay the new location’s cooking staff (mothers of the participants) and instructors (graduates of our program) as well as buy equipment for the new site’s operation and activities.
Razoo requires fundraising campaigns on its site to be sponsored by a corporation that is federally tax-exempt in the USA. Performing Life thanks Sustainable Bolivia, Inc. for sponsoring this campaign to benefit street-working youth of Cochabamba and Quillacollo.