AVP Student Residence in Bolivia

The Original “Internado” Student Residence

Although most villages in Bolivia have a primary school, secondary schools are available only in relatively large towns, which may be up to a day’s walk away from local villages, with no regular public transport available.  Thus, many students from small rural communities are unable to obtain a secondary-school education. The original “Internado” student residence was set up in 2006 to enable young people from remote villages to attend secondary schools in the town of Sorata, a 2 to 9 hour walk from their homes. In many cases, they were the first in their families to obtain a secondary school education.

This Internado was run nearly continuously for about 12 years, at first supported solely by the small California-based US charity WALKOK, then jointly by WALJOK and the Bolivian Quaker Education Fund (BQEF). In Autumn 2018, the Bolivian branch of BQEF in La Paz decided that it no longer felt able to run the Internado at a distance with its limited resources, leading to the closure of the Internado at the end of 2018.

Establishment of the new AVP Student Residence

After the original Internado was closed, Magaly Quispe, a young Bolivian Quaker based in La Paz, looked for ways to establish a new Student Residence, with WALJOK playing a supporting role.  Some Irish Friends may remember Magaly’s visits to Quaker Meetings in IYM following the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) International Gathering in 2014. Magaly was able to organize the opening of a new student residence in Sorata in February 2019 – she found a hostel suitable for use as a residence, and people to provide adequate adult supervision.  In 2020, an onsite academic administrator, a custodian, and onsite supervision by licensed social workers were added to the support personnel.

Left: Students and parents registering at the AVP Student Residence at the start of the school year in February 2019. Right: Sharing a traditional community meal at the start of the school year in February 2020.

This new student residence has been operating since then as a project under the care of Magaly Quispe’s organization “AVP/PAV Bolivia”, which was approved by the Bolivian government as a non-profit organization in early 2019. In addition to receiving educational support and guidance, the students share experiential learning activities aimed at creating a strong sense of community and strengthening their sense of self-worth, their self-discipline, and their ability to set goals and pursue them effectively. When given the opportunity to choose a name for the new project through a group consensus process, the students chose ”Hogar para estudiantes dispuestos a sobrepasar con PAV”, or “Home for Students Ready to Achieve with AVP” (the “AVP Student Residence” for short). There are currently 10 boys and 8 girls living at the AVP Student Residence, with the possibility of adding 2 more girls.

Left: AVP facilitators leading a basic workshop with the students and staff of the AVP Student Residence. Right: The cook Ester and her son Pedro, who participates in activities at the Student Residence.

The Residence is not just a place for the students to eat and sleep and have access to secondary schools; they have academic support and a broad range of enrichment experiences to prepare them for advanced study. Although not formally a Quaker establishment, he AVP Student Residence is committed to the Quaker principles of Community, Integrity, Simplicity, Equality, Peace, and Harmony with Nature, and attempts to embody them in daily life. The students at the residence are especially committed to non-violent resolution of conflict, and to living in accordance with the principles of AVP. Any discipline required is based on restorative justice, not punishment.

IQFA has periodically supported the Student Residence in Sorata since its original founding in 2006. In 2020, IQFA provided €4000 for a water tank; solar panels for domestic use; metal bunk beds, mattresses and bedding; tables and chairs; and kitchen equipment. Because there are many days when electricity is turned off and also frequent days without city water, the availability of a large water tank and solar panels with chargeable batteries to provide for domestic electricity has made a big difference in providing stable living and studying conditions for the student residents.

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