Breakthroughs in Bolivia
The team led 6 afternoon workshops with a group of 25 vulnerable girls (10 – 15 years old), a retreat for a church community in La Paz, an introductory training session and a retreat for staff from local Christian NGOs, as well as a day with women transitioning out of the sex-trade. Each part felt distinctive but together illustrated the agility and flexibility of Talitha’s Approach.
Two groups of girls from two different organisations came together, not knowing one another. All were from impoverished backgrounds, with various experiences of neglect and abuse – emotionally, physically and sexually. Half were daughters of sex-workers from El Alto and this group sensed that the other group were from a different part of town. There were a few names called and a definite atmosphere of ‘them and us’. However, fast forward two sessions and the main protagonists had exchanged artwork created within the session spontaneously expressing regret and forgiveness for their actions towards each other! The division between the groups dissolved, and over the six sessions friendships were made, messages written in their journals to each other and on the last day a stream of selfies were taken across groups.
The retreats we led inspired an explosion of creativity from participants who were so grateful for an opportunity to explore their faith in innovative and creative ways. The short introductory Talitha training left participants wanting much more and I was particularly struck by one lady who was recently employed by an NGO to work deep in the Amazon jungle in Bolivia where a group of women gather for a rehabilitation programme following Domestic Violence. She was desperate to learn more of Talitha’s work and how she could use it with this vulnerable group.
If we had to choose one highlight it would be the day we had the privilege to spend with the 11 women all beginning a process of transitioning out of the sex-trade. Half the group had recently graduated from a ten week therapeutic programme offered at Word Made Flesh and the other half were just about to start it. Here was another group brought together specially for our Talitha programme and the fruit was abundant. Those further along the journey of transition encouraged and inspired those just beginning and laughter increased considerably around the table as the day went on. Watching the women explore what Isaiah 61 meant for them through words and then movement was so powerful. One participant’s body appeared profoundly broken and she struggled to stay standing, but with one weak hand she circled her hair and whispered, “a crown of beauty instead of ashes”. Their feedback was humbling : “thank you for not judging us”, and as we left we were hugged over and over with one woman saying “thank you for everything, everything, everything.” It was an incredible trip and we are excited to see what the future holds for Talitha in Bolivia serving these extraordinary organisations.