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A Little Piece of Food Security Amid Bolivian Floods

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High water season on the San Martín River in Bella Vista, 2014.

Bolivia’s Amazonian lowlands have been hit with increasingly severe floods in recent years. This year’s flooding has been the worst ever, displacing thousands from their homes and destroying crops.

The missionaries I stayed with last year in Bella Vista dodged the worst of the damage, but the disaster has had rippling effects. One Bolivian told me that as much as a third of the country’s rice harvest was destroyed with last year’s floods. The nuns in charge of the boarding house in Bella Vista that supports 25 children have struggled with unavailable food staples and increased prices.

To make matters worse, about a month ago the missionaries told me that a power surge from the city’s shaky electric grid had destroyed the large freezer they use in the boarding house’s kitchen. With inconsistent food supplies in the muggy tropics, this equipment is crucial for storing the meat and perishables that feed the 25 growing children that the missionaries support.

This means the $1409.69 that friends, family, and strangers gave me to support the missionaries’ work came at a fortunate time.

Last week, one of the missionaries in Bella Vista was able to make the two-hour trip over muddy roads to the neighboring town of Magdalena, where she received the first installment of the donations by wire.

About $600 in donation money will be used to buy a new freezer, which will allow the missionaries to continue feeding the 25 orphans and children unable to attend school in their hometowns. It’s a small item that will make a big difference in quality of life for a group of kids who deserve the best.

Heavy rains are likely here to stay though. The recent spate of Bolivian floods was triggered by an unexpected shift in Atlantic trade winds. One Brazilian scientist says the floods could be a preview of the impacts of future climate change.

I’m hoping to continue to support my friends in Bella Vista as they deal with the challenges of a warming world. If you want to get involved in building economic security and climate resilience in eastern Bolivia, give me a shout.

04/27/2014 // Río San Martin // Bella Vista, Bolivia

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During the wet season, this Amazon tributary is a prominent means of boat transportation, and thankfully so, since many roads are flooded. During the dry season it’s little more than a stream.

04/27/2014 // Chess // Bella Vista, Bolivia

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This photo taken by an eight-year-old.

04/24/2014 // Students // Bella Vista, Bolivia

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A friend in Bolivia sent me into the jungle for a few weeks to volunteer with some nuns he knew who he said were doing health education work–teaching people about sanitation, boiling water, etc. I took a plane across Bolivia into the provincial capital of Trinidad, then another flight on a Cessna six-seater with no seatbelts to arrive at Bella Vista. The nuns greeted me warmly but it turns out they weren’t doing health education at all (and for their part, they thought I was going to be a doctor!) I ended up teaching English and chess at the boarding school the nuns run. Miss these kids.

04/11/2014 // River Crossing // Bella Vista, Bolivia

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Wet season. In the dry season, this Amazon tributary is reduced to just a trickle.