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Despite the Covid pandemic, Laurie IJzerman continues in Bolivia
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15 May 2021

Despite the Covid pandemic, Laurie IJzerman continues in Bolivia

Right before the lockdown was instated in Bolivia, I had hired new trainers. My first thought was: ‘How can I ensure that these people do not leave right away?’. The selection procedure had cost us a lot of time and energy. In the second round of interviews, we did role playing. After this, a three month therapeutic trajectory followed. In order to be a good trainer at Casa de la Alegria,  you will first have to go through therapy yourself. We expect trainers to locate their weaknesses. We expect them to be aware when they themselves become angry, and with which emotions they deal on a regular basis.

We received 300 letters, held 15 interviews and hired 4 people. Of those, 1 left during the therapeutic trajectory. In the last month of the training, we let the new employees sit in on the trainings with the traumatised children. They then got the opportunity to carry out an exercise with the group, and to evaluate that part. Then the pandemic emerged, a lockdown was instated and we had to cancel all of our trainings.

I was unable to keep paying the employees their normal salary. Everybody had to give up a part of their salary. I tried to create a specific solution for everybody. What helped as well, was that people had side jobs. Eventually, the team remained in place due to everyone’s passion for working with children. Additionally, I have always invested a lot in giving attention to everyone on the team. When a teacher is in a crisis, I visit them at home. People lay bare their soul, and this job is very heavy. I open up and am vulnerable with the team. This is intense work and that is exactly why it is important for me to take good care of everyone. When something works well, we all celebrate.

I have never been afraid that the team would fall apart completely. One day, we went to distribute food packages to children who normally work on the streets. I knew then: ‘This work is so important: now people will never leave’.

The children who normally work on the streets have parents at home who are addicted and aggressive. Children get beaten. All of this, in addition to the famine due to the lack of money being earned. As a caregiver, I see all of this happening. At first, I am of course in a neutral position. But when I get home, the anger, impotency and sadness all come out. What keeps me balanced in the end, is sitting in the sun in front of my house every day. I have started meditating again and it allows me to keep in touch with my body.