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A letter from Chenoa Stock in Bolivia

March 30, 2012

Seasons of Hope and Transformation

We are about to enter the final week of Lent, a season that has allowed us to reflect on our past, to shed our skin off and leave behind our failures and challenges, and to look ahead to an improved future of change and hope. We are in a season of growth, as we learn from the past and focus on the future. This season has fallen exactly in line with the recent events of UMAVIDA. Since the New Year we have been using lessons from the past and our hope for the future to leave behind that which may have challenged us before in order to plan both an International Youth Congress and a delegation visit with our U.S. presbytery partners in San Francisco and Cascades (Oregon).

The International Youth Congress was a time in January where 65 environmental youth activists from Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, and the United States came together in Cochabamba, Bolivia (145 miles southeast of La Paz) for a week to share and discuss their realities about issues of environmental injustice in their respective countries. This was the fifth Congress of this type and the third hosted in Bolivia, as the hosting years have alternated between Joining Hands Peru and Bolivia. Each year this Congress gives an opportunity for youth from different parts of Bolivia and Peru, and this year from more of South America, to take time with others of their age to sit together and analyze the current environmental situation of their region and more so, their continent. The beauty of this Congress is that, from the start, the youth participants are completely in charge of the planning as they form committees for the management of the activities at the Congress and democratically create rules on the first day for the Congress.

As one who was guiding the process and not necessarily in charge of it, the entire event was an eye-opening experience for me as I observed the energy and camaraderie between youth of the different countries (despite language barriers), as well as their maturity and responsibility in carrying out their roles. Each institution/country representative presented their institution’s work and the environmental issues that are occurring in their region/country. These included issues of the effects of climate change, water contamination by mining activities, lack of efficient water treatment systems, food sovereignty through urban farms, and the need to return to ancestral wisdom to conserve water and the environment. The diversity of topics that were connected in one way or another was proof for all participants that they were not alone in their fight for environmental justice. After hearing these presentations as well as those by two environmental experts the youth took their knowledge to the public in the form of an Environmental Fair in the city center of Cochabamba, setting up booths to share information about their region's issues and what they have done within their work to improve this situation. This public interchange of information was one of high energy for all as many were sharing dire environmental situations as well as witnessing the solidarity of their fellow youth activists. From darkness comes light. From these shared experiences and from leaving behind our fears comes the hope for a future of growth and change. That I have full confidence will occur with these youth and their commitment to a sustainable and healthy Earth community.

The commitments within UMAVIDA for change and growth are not only found in our youth, though.  For two weeks in February UMAVIDA hosted a delegation of seven people from our U.S. partners in San Francisco and Cascades (Oregon). This was a whirlwind, but very beneficial, time for the delegates to rebuild partnerships with UMAVIDA and its organizations, to visit and understand more about the work of UMAVIDA partner organizations, and to see and have a deeper understanding of the Bolivian context. Our time began with the UMAVIDA General Assembly, where the delegation gave presentations about their relationship with UMAVIDA and Joining Hands and met with UMAVIDA delegates and two organizations working on water issues in Cochabamba. Amidst the many travels by plane, bus and taxi, we visited six of the nine UMAVIDA partner organizations. One visit included planning sessions in Oruro (122 miles south of La Paz) with CEPA (Center for Ecology and Andean People) around the development of the campaign concerning the water contamination by the Kori Kollo mine and the government environmental audit, which is due to be published in April. It was a blessing to be seated around one table and to talk about the course of the audit and the work of CEPA to catalyze and monitor it as well as concrete plans for how our U.S. partners can advocate and support them from the States. After this positive encounter we had more energy and encouragement to move on to the greater strategic planning session between networks. After two days of much discussion, debate, confusion, clarification, and modification, we came out with detailed Action Plans for the North, for the South, and for the North and South combined.

UMAVIDA has gone through much turmoil in its history, which was reflected upon, recognized, and embraced during this time together. Though with all of the positive energy and relationship building that came from this visit, it seems our Lenten journey is coming to an end, and an Easter of Resurrection and hope is upon us for our future. We are a part of this Joining Hands commitment in order to create sustainable change, to promote community growth, and to help provide the voice that was perhaps lost in the darkness of the system.  May that new hope and light be upon and within each of you as we pray for and commit our lives to a change within ourselves and in a system that will provide life abundant for all of God’s Creation.

Happy Easter!

Chenoa Stock

The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 24
to Chenoa Stock
to Chenoa Stock's sending and support


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