Project La Paz
La Paz is a bowl shaped city in the sense that almost all houses are built on a slope. Situated at an altitude of 3600 m., the weather conditions in La Paz are often harsh.
On the 26th of February this year, the earth under the Pampahasi neighborhood started to rapidly sink into the ground at 08:00 PM. In a matter of minutes the families saw their homes and possessions sink into the ground and were left with nothing except the clothes they were wearing. Although no casualties were reported, more than 6000 people witnessed their homes being reduced to sand and ruble and since insurance is uncommon in Bolivia, people had no financial means of restoring their lives.
The first nights after disaster most families slept on cardboard boxes. The magnitude of the disaster caught the attention of the national media that called it the worst landslide in recent Bolivian history. Following the massive media attention, private and government aid started to arrive in the area. Some families were provided with a roof over their heads in schools and local government buildings while others had to look for private accommodation. Although the rest of Bolivia was empathetic with the victims, local landlords more than doubled the rent with no appreciation of the recent events.
The conditions that these people are currently live under are still extremely harsh. With gas prices rising and no alternative cooking options, families are sometimes not able to cook food. Furthermore there is not enough clean drinking water and the gas situation does not allow water to be cooked over gas. Therefore a lot of families are forced to drink the tab water, which results in severe stomach problems, and infections also spread rapidly because so many people live crammed together. Maintaining an acceptable level of hygiene is very difficult since there is only cold water to bathe in, which is a challenge with no heating and extremely cold weather. At the moment, most families heat bottles with water in the sun to address this issue.
Of course there is organized help for these people, but this is a very troubled process; many people who did not lose their house in the landslide take advantage of the government aid that was intended to the landslide victims. The result is that the people who really need it do not receive the help. Another example is the donations of clothes that are typically broken and so dirty that they cannot be washed clean.
A lot of families in the affected area were self-employed, e.g. craftsmen or taxi drivers. Many also lost their source of income together with their houses in the landslide and they do not have the money to start their businesses again. Because of their living situation, the families are vulnerable to attacks and violations and the men have to stay at home to protect them. At the moment, the future does not look bright for these families.
What CECAM did
With the help of donations of volunteers in Bolivia, CECAM provided the people in La Paz with an improved wood stove with a 60-litre pot. It was given to seven families living in a small house together because their families have special needs (a child with a mental disability for example). The stove has enabled them to cook water using very little wood, and of course prepare meals for all the families together. On top of that we donated some personal items to the most desperate families.
After this volunteers at CECAM organized a fundraiser to collect more money in order to help the people of the Pampahasi neighborhood in La Paz. With the collected money they were able to give 20 of CECAM’s solar stoves to 20 of the affected families in need. CECAM organized a workshop of two days teaching these people how to build and use the solar stoves. All participants received a booklet with healthy and affordable recipes to cook in their solar stoves and nutritional information on local fruits and vegetables. All beneficiaries signed a contract for their receival and CECAM will return to La Paz to check if the solar stoves are used properly, and will assist in resolving any problems that may occur.
With this campaign CECAM was on television, radio, and in the papers. Once again CECAM also brought some clothes and shoes for the people in La Paz, in order to help them improve their living circumstances.
What CECAM will do
With the money collected in the fundraiser, CECAM will provide another 20 families in desperate need with solar stoves within a month. Again a workshop will be organized and people will receive booklets with healthy and affordable recipes.
After this, the remainder of the collected donations will be invested in a fund to enable CECAM to offer solar and improved wood stoves below cost price to people who can’t afford them otherwise. CECAM is also working on collaborating with the people of the Pampahasi neighborhood in order to enable the man to construct and sell stoves, and the women to sell ecological lunches on the street.
CECAM’s aim is to provide the people in La Paz with a sustainable solution to their problems. This means that we do not want them to stay dependent on small donations from other people. We want to provide a way of helping them regain their independence, in a way that is better for their health and the environment in general.
Based on this experience CECAM hopes to be able to help more people in Bolivia in a similar way. Keep an eye on our website for new projects and fundraisers!