For Truvia staff, A Visit to Bolivia Meant Going Back to School

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A soccer game during the recess: girls vs. boys. © WFP/Ximena Loza

They came to Bolivia to visit schools supported by Truvia, but Abby Heidemann and Matthew Jacobs also sat in class and played soccer during recess, which brought memories of their school days. Before arriving at the school, they took a dirt road which leads to Kalasamana, in the municipality of Poroma, but it was blocked by a landslide. Unable to drive through, the two had to walk a couple of miles, as children do every day, in order to reach their destination.

KALASAMANA –Once Abby and Matthew had arrived not only did they assist to several classes, but they also stayed in for breakfast and the school meals. The school meals are funded by the resources of Truvia, a Stevia-leaf based sweetener producer. The main purpose of their visit was not only to track the school feeding programme, but also to collect anecdotes from students and teachers to raise awareness about the issue of hunger and WFP’s work in Bolivia.

Reflected on the screen

On September 2012, a Truvia film crew visited the area and made a video in which children from this and another school, Sijcha Baja, shared their dreams and goals about finishing school and becoming professionals, so they can change their life conditions and overcome poverty. During their last visit, Abby and Matthew brought the video produced last year and showed it to the class so the teacher and the children could recognize their faces. Smiles were immediately outlined in the children’s faces since they were surprised to see themselves on the screen. Their dreams and their school’s reality, which are so similar to that of many others in Bolivia, had been told to the world and they were the lead actors of the story.

Excitement during recess

Most children from the Kalasamana School are very shy because their community is distant from other towns, and they have little to no contact with the outside world. However, kids were able to break the ice outside the classroom when Matthew gave them a soccer ball as a gift. One could see pure excitement on the smiles of the 30 children who played a match of boys against girls. Needless to say, Abby and Matthew joined the fun.

The happiness of children

To Abby, who was for the first time visiting Bolivia and South America, the visit to the school of Kalasamana was simply extraordinary. It exceeded her expectations and was beyond anything she could have ever imagined before arriving. The thing that impacted her most was seeing how happy the children were even though they live in a poor community lacking resources in the Andean valleys of Chuquisaca. “There are no complaints, no rebukes because of the unmet needs…children simply enjoy every day and they rejoice every day at school.”

In her opinion, what the joint collaboration between WFP and Truvia can achieve in order to help thousands of Bolivian children is very valuable. “I wish we could do more together…I wish no child in the world would have to go hungry under any circumstance.”

Truvia, friends of WFP and Bolivia

WFP in Bolivia is supported by Truvia since mid-2012. Until the very end of that year, the collaboration was mainly in the municipality of the department of Tarija and in ten municipalities from the department of Potosí where fortified vegetable oil with vitamin A was provided through the school feeding programme to 21,205 schools and 68 fuel-efficient stoves were built in schools which were supported by WFP. These stoves ensure an efficient use of the fuel, save firewood, and, the people who cook (generally the mothers) do not have to inhale smoke.

The knowledge acquired by almost 500 teachers and parents through workshops about the construction of fuel-efficient stoves and the proven quality and usefulness of the kitchens at schools, allowed many households to replicate this technique.

Ever since 2013, the support of Truvia is mainly focused on six municipalities from the department of Chuquisaca, where WFP and the Commonwealth of Municipalities for School Feeding in Chuquisaca (MAECH, in Spanish) work together so school children have food at their schools.