During my stay in Sucre I had the honor of volunteering with a wonderful organisation dedicated to helping some of the city’s most afflicted: The Working Children of Sucre.
Inti is a bi-monthly magazine written, illustrated and sold in Sucre by some of the city’s poorest children. Money raised from sales of the magazine help pay for food, clothing and school supplies for the children.
The magazine features articles on a wide range of topics, such as personal stories of the children’s lives, poems, science, and tales of local events and towns. Volunteers translate the articles into English, making Inti a great resource for anyone learning Spanish.
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”
– W. Churchill
The majority of my time spent with Inti involved walking around Plaza 25 de Mayo with the children, helping to sell the magazines.
In the beginning conversation was a little awkward as my Spanish was very basic and their English non-existent. That being said, we found other ways to communicate and soon laughter became the communal language. During our walks we would often exchange language lessons, teaching each other basic vocab, phrases, and rude words of course!
The children, ranging from ages 6 to 14, though very affectionate, were quite shy. Each child carried a small sign explaining the purpose of the magazine, enabling them to communicate with tourists. Many of the young ones were reluctant to approach gringos on their own thus were always keen to be in the company of an English-speaking volunteer.
On a number of occasions I was lucky enough to be included in special excursions for the children, including a trip to a water park, a Christmas party, and an afternoon eating ice-cream. It was both heart-warming and heartbreaking to see how much the children looked forward to these events. The outings allowed each child to break away from their harsh reality and enjoy being a ‘kid’ for a day.
Debates in the Street
On a couple of occasions I was confronted by people who understandably had reservations about supporting child labor.
I’m of the opinion that denying children the support of organizations such as Inti would be to condemn them to a harsher, more hopeless life. Without Inti, many of the children would be working anyway; begging on the streets with less time for schooling and without the many benefits Inti offers.
Inti is more than just a magazine and a bit of money for the children. It is a whole support system which, through the work on the magazine and the extra-curricular activities funded through donations, gives the children the guidance, skills and even affection needed to break the poverty cycle they live in.
The Face Behind Inti
Long after leaving Sucre, the ability of just one person to make a profound impact on a whole community still resonates.
Philomena, or ‘Philly’ as she is affectionately known throughout the community, is one of those rare people who is truly about the cause. She is humble and caring, whilst at the same time demonstrating a strong focus and commitment to the project.
Bolivia is notorious for its slow admin and bureaucratic hurdles, however even when faced with adversity, Philly remains true to her mission, maintaining a positive perspective. I truly admire a person who can commit wholeheartedly to a cause without wavering when the going gets tough.
Philly has inspired me to go out in the world and to utilise the skills I have to improve the lives of others. I have learnt that you don’t need to have all the answers; you just need to be prepared to take the first step.
To learn more about Inti or to make a donation please head to www.inti-revista.org
Update: As of 2017, Inti Magazine is no longer being produced. We wish Philly and her team all the best for the future.