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‘These trainings are for children, and I’m not a child!’
15 February 2019

‘These trainings are for children, and I’m not a child!’

‘These trainings are for children, and I’m not a child!’

The trainers of ‘Casa de la Alegria’ in Bolivia often hear this remark from the children they are guiding. The children are victims of human trafficking and deeply traumatized. We support the training sessions because they help children to process their traumas.

The dark side of Bolivia

The impressive nature makes Bolivia a popular tourist destination. The local economy is also growing in certain areas. With or without small loans, farmers manage to build a life. But a different story remains untold. In some areas, poverty is so severe that parents decide to sell one of their children. Girls who have been sold move to a different part of the country and become disoriented. Eventually, they end up in places where they have to sell drugs or alcohol. Additionally, they often end up working in prostitution.


Casa de la Alegria was founded in 2011 by a Dutch trainer: Laurie Ijzerman. She visited care homes and closed institutions in Cochabamba and started to create training sessions for traumatized boys and girls. Now, there is a team consisting of 2 psychologists, 2 social workers, a therapist, a trainer and the coordinator.



Flora is 10 years old and it is her third time in an institution. She continually picks fights with the trainer (Walter) and is violent towards the other children in the group. However, the therapists know she really wants to participate in the training. Months later, she eventually voices this: ‘I just want to participate and play!’

What do children learn in the training sessions?

  1. Learning how to feel. Children have lost touch with their emotions and have mood swings. They are encouraged to express themselves.
  2. Being aware of your body. Children have been estranged from their own bodies.
  3. Letting go of aggression. Boys are taught to express and let go of their aggression. A boxing ball makes a big difference!
  4. Setting boundaries. Girls are very distant or too affectionate with regards to the trainer. These are classic signs of trauma. Exercises are being done to help the children recognize boundaries.



Laurie Ijzerman first met Fatima in August 2018. Fatima is 15 years old and she is from Beni, in the north-east of Bolivia. Poverty is severe in this region and children are often sold by their parents. ‘Fatima resided in a closed shelter home and frankly, all she wanted to do was leave,’ Laurie says. ‘We spoke with her a lot, but whenever the workshops would start, she immediately left the room. Until, in November, she decided to stay. For me, that was the first sign that our guidance was having effect’.