The idea for Casa de la Alegría arose when our founder, Laurie, stayed in Cochabamba for four months while doing fieldwork for her anthropology thesis. She fell in love with the country, the city and the people, but also saw a lot of things that weren’t going well. She spoke about this with the locals, and it became clear that because of poverty, many parents were so busy making sure their kids survived that they didn’t have any time left to actually raise them. Many children start working from a young age and come across a lot of aggression, violence and neglect. As a consequence, many of them miss vital social and emotional skills, have problems dealing with their emotions, and often end up in a vicious cycle of violence and aggression. The idea arose to help these children develop their skills and make them aware of their talents, so they can become more independent, proud of who they are and start building a better future for themselves.
After arriving back in the Netherlands, Laurie, aided by the original board of directors, focused completely on setting up the Casa de la Alegría foundation, and then moved back to Cochabamba to lead the foundation from there. Now, we have a new board, a teacher in Bolivia, and an enthusiastic group of volunteers in the Netherlands, who all devote their time and energy to helping the children in Bolivia work toward a better future.
Laurie had planned to start searching for a drama teacher a few weeks after she arrived in Cochabamba. The plan was clear: get everything in order first, and then start searching. However, after telling a friend about this idea, about a week after arriving, two guys showed up ready for their job interview; Omar and Karito. There was only enough money for one instructor, but after having them both teach a trial workshop, Laurie quickly found she couldn’t just pick one. Thankfully they were both willing to work part time. The two of them could not be more different; Omar is nearly always late, can be a bit vague, and is a real do-gooder who passionately wants to make the world a better place. He has a way of working with kids that can almost be called magical, and manages to reach even the most difficult cases. Karito on the other hand is very structured, very organized, and is quickly learning to give good, constructive feedback (something that is not at all a custom in Bolivia). Both men have had a difficult childhood, and are able to relate to the children they work with. Despite their differences – or maybe because of them – our teachers complement both each other and Laurie very well, and over time have developed a very comfortable way of working together.
Unfortunately, we have recently had to make the decision to let Omar go, and are currently looking for a new teacher. We will of course keep you posted about all the new developments.