Introduction Week at Casa Alianza: Diaconía FRIF, Football Crossing Borders++ - Adventures of Anette

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Introduction Week at Casa Alianza: Diaconía FRIF, Football Crossing Borders++

Misjonsalliansens office in El Alto
This week we are having an introduction week here at Casa Alianza, which means that we also have been traveling around the city of El Alto and Sorata to look at some of Misjonsalliansens (The Norwegian Mission Alliance) projects in Bolivia.
El Alto; the poorest city in Bolivia
Misjonsalliansen is an Norwegian organization with a christian founding, but despite the name it is not about missionaring. Misjonsalliansen is an organization based on christian values and principles, such as solidarity, love, justice and honesty. For the people working in this organization this is widely though of as a reason for the success they have in their many projects. Because, as their motto says; "Det handler ikke om veldedighet, men om rettferdighet". This can be translated to "It's not about charity, it is about justice".
In Misjonsalliansen they go by the principle that everybody is worth the same, and that they are simply helping the people to help themselves. Cooperation with the locals is an important part of the work Misjonsalliansen does in Bolivia and 9 other countries including countries like Brazil, Ecuador, Cambodia and Liberia .

As a result of their work to include the locals, Misjonsalliansen have over 80 employees at their offices in Bolivia, but only 6 of these are Norwegian. In that way the Misjonsalliansen can participate in developing the infrastructure of the country through educating people, so that they can take responsibility of the developement themselves. An example of this is the previous director Rolando Villena, who now works as "Defensor del Pueblo"; which is the highest position when it comes to human rights in Bolivia.
Misjonsalliansens projects include the building of schools and educating teachers, developing health stations for the locals, contributing to the battle against HIV, and to get water to small communities among others.
Misjonsalliansen has been working in Bolivia for 32 years, and they have achieved a lot during these years. Here is a short presentation of some of their projects:

 Diaconía FRIF
Diaconía FRIF is a microcredit company that started out as a project in the Misjonsalliansen, but that eventually developed into an independed non-governmental organization. In the beginning Diaconia FRIF mainly gave loans to the poor people living in El Alto. The first year there were more or less 20 people who wanted to borrow money from Diaconía FRIF, but it has expanded a lot, and today Diaconia FRIF has over 50 000 customers a year along with 30 offices spread throughout the country in both urbane areas and also in villages.
El Alto was for a long period the fastest growing city in South America, and this resulted in a city almost drowned in poverty where there was few possibilities for the people to change their future for the better. But there are changes going on in this city, and it is evident that the work Misjonsalliansen has been doing here is a part of that development among other through their subsidiary company Diaconía FRIF.
Through Diaconía FRIF poor people get the chance to take up loan for their projects, whether it is to build a house, expand a business etc.
The entrance to Diaconía FRIF's office
People gathered outside the office
The rents are high; 24% for new customers and a bit lower for those who has been using Diaconía FRIF over a longer period of time. But the reason for this is that it costs as much to give small loans as it costs to give big loans; the money only goes to covering their expances. Besides, giving out money to people living in such poverty involve a lot of risks, and so they have to keep the rents high to ensure that they are actually able to give loans as well. Even though one can well say that the rents are high the success with mickrocredit here in Bolivia has made it possible to gradually lower the interest rates, which can be as high as 60% in some of the other South-American countries.
Another thing that separates Diaconía FRIF from other microcredit companies, is that along with the loan you get educated in how to run and develope your business, and a personal advertiser that follows their projects to mentally support them on the way.
What is a client? Ethical guidelines from Diaconía FRIF's office
Visiting the rooms where the customers gets loans and advices
We visited Diaconía FRIF's office in El Alto, where we got to see how they work, and also some of their customers. The first customers we got to meet, was a group of 30 (!) people, who had gotten together to pay their loan. They were cooperating in a group even though their projects varied a lot; there were people who needed money to knit, to build houses, repair computers, selling makeup, or just to expand their small shops. And only 3 of the 30 loantakers were men. Because Diaconía FRIF wants to empower women in the society they have an upper limit regarding how many men there can be in a group. This can also help to increase the participating womens self-esteem, and give them the chance to contribute more to their families.
The loan group counted 30 members, and all the leaders were women.
More or less the second half of the loan group, + volunteers and representatives from the Mission Alliance.
Outside Diaconía FRIF´s offices, where a group of customers were working on their knitting projects.
Secondly we visited a loantaker who had been a customer in Diaconía FRIF almost since the start of the organization, and the loan had enabled her to expand both her house and her family company.
The lady that were using her loan at Diaconía FRIF to expand her business, and Linda who works for the Alliance.
One of the girls who were working part-time in the company
Here they were making letter wallets, belts ++
One of their sewing-machines
Taking a look at the wallets they have been making
Leather wallets
We got the opportunity to support her business by buying some of  their products.
Football Crossing Borders
We also went to look at Misjonsalliansens project Fotball krysser grenser (Football ((Soccer)) Crossing Borders).
Through this project Misjonsalliansen has been cooperating with the government by building football fields and educating coaches so that the children have an alternative activity for the afternoons or mornings depending on when they go to school.
Boys carrying the goals
The coach having a small pep-talk
Ready - go!
It is free for the children to participate, and so it helps poor children getting the chance to participate in activities outside of school as well. But this is not only about playing around either; during every practice the children gets divided into small groups, and all of the groups have to participate in a lecture where the children learn about things like respect, rights, helping others etc. It is also normal that the children gets homework here.
The lady teaching the kids about values
..and correcting their homework.
When we came to visit the group that were having a lecture about values the coach introduced us and said: "These are the Norwegians from the Mission Alliance, it is thanks to these people that you can play football here".. It was a bit strange to hear this, cause it is far from reality that I've contributed much so far to the work of the organization. On the other hand it shows the importance of the work that Misjonsalliansen are doing here in Bolivia, and it does make me proud that I have the opportunity to work with them here.

Here are some more photos from the introduction week:

A school supported by the Mission Alliance
Their principal also came to say hi to us while we were visiting the school.
The kids were really happy to get some strange, foreign visitors
The courtyard and one of the school building, partly financed by Misjonsalliansen
In the breaks the kids use the opportunity to buy sweets in the kiosk.  Apparently the school had decided that the kiosk shouldn't sell sweets, but the parents complained about it.. No wonder why the Bolivians have such bad teaths x/
We also visited a health station, where the locals get the chance to  get some basic healthcare. 
One of the rooms in the health station
All blogposts from Bolivia
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About Anette
Anette came to Japan as an exchange student in 2010, met the love of her life and got stuck. From her base in Tokyo she writes about her experiences as a full-time worker in Tokyo and about her travels in Japan and abroad. She's a free-spirited adventurer who'd gladly trade a trip to the shoppingmall for a hike in the forest any day.

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Adventures ofAnette


The classical story about a girl who went for a one-year exchange program to Japan, fell in love and got stuck there. Starting out as a student in Kyoto in 2010 I now work full-time in Tokyo as a hotel consultant, and write mostly about my travels, working life in Japan as well as a bunch of random stuff.
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