Kindernothilfe Kindernothilfe e.V. Kindernothilfe e.V.

Bolivia: Children work like slaves

Children work like slaves

In the Bolivian mining city of Potosí and the surrounding mining centres more than 6.500 children have to work in unbearable conditions. They perform very hard jobs underground - carrying material, loading tippers or engraving holes for explosives, working up to 10 hours a day. To support these children, Kindernothilfe sponsors three projects in the city, situated at 4000 meters above sea level, supporting 800 girls and boys and their families.

Bilder dürfen wir erst nach Rückspache mit SD verwendenPicture: Peter Müller 
Miguel has already been working for two years in the Cerro Rico, the "rich mountain", situated amidst the Bolivian Andes where there were once the richest silver mines in the world. Every day the eleven years old boy squeezes through the narrow, unsecured tunnels searching for minerals.
Working conditions underground are so injurious to health that many children suffer from serious respiratory diseases and infections of eyes and skin. "Temperatures in the tunnels can be up to 40 degree Celsius. Sometimes I can hardly breathe because of the high sulphur content in the air", Miguel complains. The boy works almost ten hours a day below ground with two slices of dry bread and a bottle of water being his only food. "To cope with the hunger we chew koka leaves. That helps a bit at least," he says softly. Working in the tunnels is perilous; tunnels often cave in. Miguel earns four Dollars a day - a starvation wage but his family depends on his salary
Bilder dürfen wir erst nach Rückspache mit SD verwendenPicture: Peter Müller 

Help for the children in the mines
The aim of all three projects is to improve the working conditions of the children because the general prohibition of child labour is currently not enforceable as the families have no alternative to generate an income.

The project „Niñez Minera del Cerro Rico" (project-no. 90031) has been running since 2003 in a small day-care centre near the mines. In the institution children receive a warm meal and are medically treated. In the evenings a lot of the children attend school lessons but after having carried out the hard work they are barely able to concentrate. Therefore the pupils, including Miguel, make use of the extra classes offered in the day-care centre. Miguel is grateful for the support because he wants to quit working in the mines and find a better job outside the mining industry. The parents of the children can attend vocational training being trained as tailors, mechanics or carpenters. The education enables them to secure the family's income without having to carry out the hard work in the mines.

The project "Wayna Pacha" (project-no 90040) has been supporting about 150 children and their families living in the miners housing areas of El Calvario and San Christobal since August 2006. This initiative also aims at sustainably improving the dangerous living and working conditions of the children who work in the mines and their families. The focus is on the work with the families.

Children between the age of seven and eighteen are assisted in doing their homework by the social workers and can attend special tutoring. Children with special problems are individually helped in small groups. The older children are offered the opportunity to attend vocational trainings and are also assisted in choosing a profession. microcredits and income generating activities make it possible for many young people to start their own businesses.
In the centre, which is situated close to the mountain Cerro Rico, boys and girls get the opportunity to live out their childhood. They play soccer, basketball and volleyball and rehearse theatre plays.

The centre also provides three meals a day as many children are malnourished and therefore at risk of getting infections and can hardly concentrate at school.
The "coaching of parents" has one important goal: parents ought to take more responsibility for their children and their future. The project conducts workshops for parents on topics like the family and upbringing of children on a regular basis. The parents should become aware of the importance of school and education for their children. As alcohol abuse and instable and violent family circumstances are common among the miners' families, prevention and education are key aspects of the project.
Children, youths and women who suffer from abuse and domestic violence are offered concrete support and professional counseling. The project also includes literacy courses for adults and grants credits for parents enabling them to open up their own small business. Thus their children no longer have to generate an income working in the mines.

Bilder dürfen wir erst nach Rückspache mit SD verwendenPicture: Peter Müller 

The project „Promocion de la Ninez y Familia Minera" (project-no. 90039) has been a place of refuge for children and young people since August 2006. Special support by the caregivers is provided to children under the age of six years. The children are supported in developing their physical, intellectual and social abilities. Pupils and teenagers are being helped with their homework and offered additional classes. A good education is aimed at enabling the children to quit working in the mines. Every day the children are given a warm meal. Medical checks are carried out and treatment is provided if necessary. Leisure activities and cultural programs organized by the staff members are a welcome change for the children and teenagers from their depressing day-to-day routine at the mine. The program also includes workshops and seminars on topics like children's rights, participation or self-esteem. Children and teenagers learn to stand up for themselves and claim their rights. Step by step, they develop more self-esteem and improve their ability to express their wishes and points of view. Furthermore, the project intends to open up alternative income generating opportunities for parents and teenagers. Parents are granted microcredits enabling them to start their own business or to buy tools, in order to carry out a handcraft.
Project members have started to build a network, which aims at connecting all organisations working with mining families. The different initiatives intend to exchange information and collectively advocate the miner's interests and lobby for support.

The project has been supported by the German foundation "Ein Herz für Kinder" and the Kindernothilfe for eight years.

If we receive more donations than we need to realize the project described above, we will invest your donation to support a similar project.
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