Shoe shine boys in La Paz

In several areas of the centre of La Paz in Bolivia one can find boys and men shining shoes on the roadside, usually in groups of 2-4. They almost always wear woollen masks over their faces that gives them a frightening appearance. One of the first times a masked shoe shine boy confronted Ian in the street, pointing to his shoes, Ian’s immediate reaction was that it was a ruse to get him to look down (and when he did so, be mugged and robbed). At that time Ian went into a self-defence stance only to realize that the kid frankly wanted to shine his shoes. His reaction was not unusual though. Many people are scared of the shoe shine boys assuming that they are dangerous. The reality, however, is that while these boys and men often come from terrible home environments and/or are victims of human trafficking and now live mostly in the streets, they are not known to be dangerous and are probably smarter than one might assume. In fact, they have created their own newspaper which they sell. Unlike the newspapers sold by people on the street of Toronto, this paper is actual written by the shoe shine boys and men themselves. I was not able to find one while in La Paz but Ian told me about a recent issue that responded to an accusation that shoe shine boys are thieves by listing several local politicians, including the ever-present President Evo Morales as the true thieves and also explaining why.
In a downtown La Paz park, Alalay (an organization Alma funds in Bolivia) still holds nightly soccer games and supports groups for the shoe shine boys.
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Developing children’s fine motor skills at Sariry Foundation

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At Sariry Foundation boys and girls from 3 to 6 years old participate in the activities that develop  their fine motor skills. The motor skills refer to the body movements that require precision and elevated level of coordination. The activities done with passion, enthusiasm, attention and concentration are as follows:

Connecting dotes and making collages

Wool braiding

Playing with puppets

Cutting with scissors freely on the big paper, newspaper, cardboard

Cutting with scissors along the lines: straight, curve, spiral and other forms

Moving small objects such as: lentils and seeds from one bowl to another, using only the index finger and thumb

Cutting a straight and inclined lines

Drawing and painting

For the Sariry Foundation these are very important activities because they contribute to motor skills, as well as to the emotional and intellectual development of boys and girls. Mainly, they contribute to the development of their abilities such as eye hand coordination which is very important for writing.

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Niños  y niñas de 3 a 6 años de edad participan de las actividades de psicomotricidad fina. La motricidad fina se  refiere a los movimientos realizados por una o varias partes del cuerpo  que requieren  precisión y un elevado nivel de coordinación. Las actividades que realizan con pasión, entusiasmo, atención y concentración son las siguientes:

Punteado y collage.

Trenzas con lana.

Jugar con títeres con manos y dedos.

Recortar con tijeras libremente en papel grande, de periódico, cartulina

Recortar con tijeras siguiendo la línea: recta, curva, espiral, de diferentes formas

Trasladar objetos pequeños como: lentejas, semillas de un plato a otro, sólo usando los dedos índice y pulgar.

Cortar siguiendo una línea recta, luego oblicua o inclinada.

Dibujar y pintar

Para la Fundación SARIRY,  son muy importantes estas actividades  porque contribuyen en el desarrollo motor, afectivo e intelectual de los niños y niñas; principalmente contribuyen en el desarrollo de sus capacidades y  habilidades  de coordinación ojo – mano  muy importante para la escritura 

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Meet Alexandra and Roger Pompilla from Centro Anay

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Alexandra Pompilla 

This girl was captured by the police for human trafficking.  According to her life story she was abandoned by her mother, together with her five siblings. She was the second-born and her older sister had a baby at age 16, and she also left her son in the orphanage.

Alexandra was deceived by a married older man, it could be said that he kidnapped her. When her sister reported the escape and/or kidnapping, Alexandra was captured and taken to the “Casa acogida” (women’s shelter).   She started to attend cosmetology classes, which she liked very much, and where she stood out for her skill.  That’s how she was with us, and she was the best pupil we had.  When she left the shelter at age 17, we gave her our support so that she could continue her studies in an informal school, and also tried to find her some work.  Unfortunately, she could not continue because of theft problems in both cases.

After that we had her working at the beauty salon that we have opened for students to practice, but, unfortunately, there were also cases of thievery. Now she is back, and is asking us again for help so that she may continue working with us, because she is pregnant.  During this time she is not able work, but there is a commitment to give her another chance and to enable to help herself financially after the child birth,  particularly keeping in mind that a baby will involve expenses.


Roger Pompilla 

Roger is the brother of Alexandra Pompilla. When the mother of abandoned all of her children, the father was working outside Cusco.  Apparently, he did not know that the “fiscalía” (Office of the Attorney General) had taken charge of all of the children for the reason of total abandonment.  After some time he learnt about it, but they had already been placed in their respective “hogares” (shelters): Alexandra in a “casa acogida” (women’s shelter), Roger in CAR, Salome Ferro, Rosa, Carmen and Edme in San Judas, a boy and two more girls in a home for children under the age of five.  Previously, the mother had abandoned the father with the five children, and entered into a relationship with another man with whom she had two more children.  She asked Alexandra’ s father for another chance, and he agreed to come back, but she later abandoned all the children again.

All of the children have problems with their vision, but Roger is almost completely blind, and no further surgery can be done.  An attempt has been made to help other children with surgery, but, unfortunately, the authorities of  “Beneficencia” (a public charity) did not provide the facilities.

Roger is a very intelligent and competitive boy.  He won the gold medal in karate, and he now plays the guitar better than the other pupils, thanks to his sharp ear and adoration for music.  He is very expressive and an extrovert, and ready to take part in activities without fear. We are very proud to be able to listen to him play and sing songs that he has learnt.


Prepared by: Carmen Muñoz Franco

Alexandra Pompilla

Es una chica que fue capturada por la policía por trata de personas, en su historia de vida es que ella fue abandonada por su madre junto con sus 5 hermanos, siendo ella la segunda, la mayor tuvo su bb a los 16 años y dejo a su hijo igual en el orfelinato, Alexandra fue engañada por un hombre mayor y casado que se podría decir que la rapto, al hacer su hermana la denuncia de fuga y/o rapto Alexandra fue capturada y llevada a la Casa acogida, ella empezó a asistir a las clases de cosmetología donde se destacó por la habilidad que tenía en las manos y que le gustaba mucho cosmetología, así estuvo con nosotros siendo la mejor alumna que tuvimos, cuando salió de casa acogida con 17 años, le apoyamos para que continúe sus estudios escolares en un colegio desescolarizado, de igual forma para ubicarla en algunos trabajos, lamentablemente no pudo continuar por problemas de hurto en ambos casos.

Después la dejamos trabajando en el salón de belleza que hemos apertura do para las prácticas de las alumnas, pero lamentablemente también hubo hurto, ahora regresa a pedirnos nuevamente ayuda para seguir trabajando con nosotros porque se embarazo, en ese tiempo no puede trabajar pero hay el compromiso de darles nuevamente una oportunidad para que después de desembarazar ella pueda ayudarse económicamente más aun con un bb que requerirá gastos.

Roger Pompilla

Roger es hermano de Alexandra Pompilla, cuando la madre de estos niños abandono a todos sus hijos, el papa trabajaba fuera del Cusco,  no se dio por enterado que la fiscalía se había hecho cargo de todos los niños por abandono total, ya despues de algún tiempo él se enteró pero ya habían entrado a los hogares respectivos, es decir, Alexandra a casa acogida, Roger al CAR Salome Ferro, Rosa Carmen  y Edme a San Judas chico y dos niñas más a un hogar de menores de 5 años, es decir la madre abandono a su padre con los 5 primeros hijos y se comprometió con otro hombre con quien tuvo dos hijos más, pidió otra oportunidad al papa de Alexandra y el acepto volver, pero después igual otra vez abandono a todos los niños.

Los niños tienen problemas de vista pero Roger ya casi perdió totalmente la visión, sin poder hacer ninguna operación mas, se ha intentado ayudar con alguna operación a cualquiera de los niños de esta familia, pero lamentablemente las autoridades de la Beneficencia no dieron las facilidades.

Roger es un niño muy inteligente, competitivo, fue ganador de medalla de oro en las clases de karate y ahora toca la guitarra mejor que los otros alumnos porque tiene el oído agudo y le gusta la música, es muy expresivo y dispuesto a estar en actividades sin temor y extrovertido. Es un orgullo para nosotros poder escucharlo tocar y cantar canciones que ya toca con la práctica.

Preparado por: Carmen Muñoz Franco

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Alma reports from earthquake epicentrum in Miska-Paruro

On 27th of September, at approximately 8:30 am, an earthquake hit the city of Cusco.  The epicentrum and doubtlessly the worst affected area was the rural community of Miska, in the Province of Paruro.  The result of the earthquake was 80 collapsed homes, 530 affected persons, 8 deaths and many injured.

In view of this incident, I  decided to call on some friends to provide assistance to people affected. We started collecting clothing, shoes and provisions.  A few hours after my publication in the social networks requesting assistance for my countrymen/women in Paruro, I began to receive many calls from people ready to help with this mission.

On Monday we drove off in the truck provided by the Director of the foundation.  What we saw was a disaster; many homes were completely destroyed.  People were moved to a soccer field nearby where the Peruvian Government organized tents and food.  I have to say, however, that the supplies we had with us were of great help because on the night of the earthquake everyone had fled from their homes only with the clothes they had on.  Until that day many found themselves without shoes, without a coat, without a roof.  We travelled with 5 Scout leaders, friends of ours, with the mission to deliver everything we had collected and also to do field work such as  helping with putting up the tents, unloading the donations arriving from the Government and other things like cleaning the area to which the population was evacuated.  We also briefed them on the subjects of cleanliness and hygiene for the days they will be coexisting with each other in confined spaces. Finally, we had an afternoon of play and conversation with the children of the Miska community, so that they could forget, for at least  a few minutes, the disaster they  survived that night.

At present we know that the Miska Community continues to receive help, but what concerns me is that it is short-term aid, namely food, blankets, clothing. The rainy season has already begun and the entire community is living in tents, so this will be a difficult time for all of them.  I hope that we can find a way to really help them.


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Benefit Dinner with Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird

On Thursday, October 2nd, 2014 Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird, spoke to a full house at the National Club in Toronto, with proceeds from the event benefitting Alma.

The Minister was generous with his time and shared some of the most poignant moments of his career.

He also spoke about some of the human atrocities still being committed across the world today, reminding everyone present why we, as Canadians, are so fortunate to live in a free and tolerant society.

We are extremely grateful to the evening’s Presenting Sponsor, Barrick Gold Corp., as well as Silver Sponsor, Navigator, and the Auction Sponsor, Air Canada.

Thanks to the sponsors’ generosity, and a wonderful live auction, the event raised more than $40,000 for Alma, and 100% of the proceeds will be directed to our projects in Peru and Bolivia.

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Meet Jhamil Cabrera Layme

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Jhamil Cabrera Layme, is 4 years old who lives with his mother, his farther and younger brother. Jhamil is a very caring kid and sometimes he is very sensitive. He is a great child always eager to learn and he likes new things and having fun like any kid of his age. He especially likes to paint different pictures and helps other students to remember the colors. Also, he likes to solve puzzles, do his tasks and crafts from colored paper. Also, he likes fairy tales. This is a quiet and supportive kid that entered the institution this year and his mother says that he likes to visit the school. 

Jhamil Cabrera Layme tiene 4 años, tiene una familia que está compuesta de 4 miembros, su mamá, papá, y su  hermanito. Jhamil es un niño con buenos sentimientos y a la vez es muy sensible, es  un niño impresionante con muchas ganas de aprender, a él le gusta aprender cosas nuevas y divertidas como cualquier niño de su edad;  le gusta pintar diferentes dibujos le gusta ayudar a sus compañeros a recordar los colores, asimismo  le gusta  armar rompecabezas, realizar sus tareas y manualidades con papel de color, pintura. También le gustan los cuentos. Es un niño tranquilo, solidario además este año ha ingresado a  la institución y comenta su mamá que le gusta asistir.


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Challenging Duo..

One of the biggest challenges of the inclusion program could be the relationship between the regular education teacher and our inclusion teacher. We have been lucky with our former classrooms but the newest addition to the program this year, our 5 year old preschool class, has definitely been a challenge! We have included 4 boys, 3 with autism, 1 with intellectual disability, into the classroom of 5 year olds. They are all very smart, mostly well behaved students.

This year we have faced some very difficult attitudes from the regular education teacher such as isolating our students, making inappropriate slandering comments to our teacher throughout the day, and despite many meetings with her and the school director to explain our teaching system, continues to rebuke our teacher and her way of adapting activities for our students. This is a very good learning experience for us as an organization to be constantly assessing the effectiveness of the program and how we can make it better.

Now that we are more than halfway through the year, the teacher has improved her interaction with the students and our teacher and their relationship seems to be improving every day. This attitude is the exact reason why we insist on the model of inclusion we have created in order to protect our students and give them equal access to quality education in a typical education setting.

We have recently included a young 8 year old student, Shirley, into our 2nd grade classroom in Velasco Astete. She started in Camino Nuevo in March and we quickly saw that her biggest deficit was memory and learning disabilities. She deserved to study alongside same-aged peers but came from a former negative inclusion environment where students constantly made fun of her and she stopped wanting to go to school. She transferred to Camino Nuevo this year and worked hard with Profe Sandra the first semester, improving her reading and writing skills, attention and concentration. We agreed she was ready to be included and started her first day of school in the inclusion setting with Profe Pilar August 11. She was quite shy the first week but has blossomed now and is a wonderful example of how providing quality support for a student with learning disabilities can improve their self -esteem and overall educational experience.

On Saturday, August 30 we celebrated our first Inclusion family outing. 19 families joined together in the recreational park in Pisaq to enjoy a day of bar-b-que, volleyball, soccer and swimming! All Camino Nuevo inclusion teachers and administrators participated in this fun day in an effort to unite families through friendship and fun. Frida, our psychologist had parents participate in team-building games and activities as well as games with their children. The best part was the swimming party! Kids of all ages and parents as well jumped in the water and splashed around with other families. What a great day for all.


Jardin Piagatano, Manos Unidos

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Pampacucho project: Creativity is Key

The “Biblioteca” project is built around the idea that education is not a single trajectory between a defined starting and ending point, but a more fluid orientation with varying starting and ending points depending on the strengths and interests of each individual student. Though the case can be made for the need of standardized education with pre-defined progress markers, it is also clear that the standardized approach forces all students to learn in the same manner and progress at the same rate; with negative impacts on creativity, critical thinking, and the necessary flexibility for students who learn differently or progress at varying speeds.

Therefore, this project takes advantage of working with students in the afternoon, outside of regular school hours, to compliment the more rigid education they receive in the classroom with a more flexible model reinforcing reading comprehension, creativity, communication, and critical thinking by bridging these themes with activities based on the students’ interests. 

Based on previous experience in other communities, the students, teachers, parents, and the Alma Foundation came to the consensus that the workshops be built around the creation of short films – conceived, written, acted, directed, and edited by the participating students. The project curriculum is divided into four blocks: creative writing, script creation, theater, and filming and editing. In each block students are challenged to develop and utilize different skills which together serve as the base for reading comprehension. Students practice and we evaluate skills such as creative writing, character development, logical sequencing, vocabulary and punctuation, oration, etc. Students also edit and perform the work of other students, challenging them to read and understand the stories of their classmates.  The students’ progress is monitored and documented throughout the project in order to show a clear model of improvement from the beginning through the end of the project.

In Pampacucho, there are 17 students in primary school, ages 5-11, and 6 students in pre-school, ages 3-5. In 2014 the workshops are three hours long twice a week, facilitated by a teacher hired and trained by the Alma Foundation.

Pampacucho pic

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Getting there isn’t always half the fun

On Friday, my oldest officially entered the school system. When it was time to leave the house he happily – enthusiastically, even – donned his new backpack, grabbed my hand and walked down the driveway.   The walk to his school is about 4 or 5 blocks. As we passed our neighbourhood park, we lamented the fact that the outdoor pool was now closed for the season, we remarked on how pretty the flowers were in front of the church, and we counted how many school buses passed us. The walk took about seven minutes.

When I got home, I found this link on my Facebook feed. It depicts some of the more harrowing school commutes around the world. Although none of Alma’s students are pictured, some of their commutes are no less treacherous.

children-going-to-school-around-the-world-25The very nature of our mission – helping children in economically marginalized areas – means the children we serve are most often living in very remote communities, requiring treks of one to five hours through the Andes to attend school.

To risk their safety and well being on a daily basis to attend classes… I only hope that my children are as dedicated to their studies as these kids clearly are.

By Meagan Ross, Executive Director

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Meet Lisbeth Barrientos from Centro Anay

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Lisbeth is has been at Centro Anay for 11 years. Her mother abandoned her and the birth certificate given by her mother was incorrect, but at that time nobody took the trouble to find out what her proper name and date of birth was.

She studied for 10 years under the name of Lisbeth Barrientos. She is a smart girl and studies computing and cosmetology at Centro Anay. However, in order to continue with her higher studies, she needs to have her documents in order. We recently found out the name Lisbeth Barrientos is not recognized by her father, and not registered anywhere else. This will prevent her from continuing with her studies and from obtaining her certification.

She is already 18 years old, which is the maximum age she can stay in the shelter. In coordination with the Director of St. Jude, we have requested that Lisbeth be allowed to stay until the end of the year so that she can find a place to live.

She is now working as a secretary in a medical organization and, of course, uses the skills she obtained in the center. We are committed to help her to sort out her DNI (National Identity Card) so that she can continue with her higher education.


Es una niña que estuvo en el hogar por 11 años, la fiscalía la retiro del lado de su mama por  abandono, su madre entrego una copia de su partida de nacimiento no correcta, pero en ese momento nadie se tomó la molestia de averiguar si era correcto su nombre, ella estudio sus 10 años de estudios con el nombre de Lisbeth Barrientos,  según esta partida ella tendría en este momento 16 años, pero lamentablemente era incorrecto, una chica muy inteligente estudio con nosotros computación y también cosmetología, pero para continuar sus estudios superiores necesitaba tener todos sus documentos en regla y recién se entera que su nombre era Lesbeth Barrientos que no había sido reconocida por su padre e inscrita por cualquier persona menos sus padres, eso impidió que siga con sus estudios y con la certificación que deseábamos darle y también que ya tiene 18 años, lo que hace que debe retirarse del orfelinato. En coordinación con la Directora de San Judas, se pidió que la tenga hasta fines de año mientras se pueda conseguir un hogar donde ella pueda vivir, pues no se puede contar con su padre ni madre, que son las personas oficiales que podrían retirarla del orfelinato.

Ella ahora está trabajando como secretaria en un consultorio médico y por supuesto utilizando los conocimientos que tuvo en nuestro Centro.

Nuestro compromiso con ella es ayudarle a regularizar sus papeles con su DNI, (Documento Nacional de Identidad) hacer un juicio para ordenar su documentación y pueda continuar con sus estudios superiores.

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