By Andrea Arnold
On January 3, 2023, six young adults from McBride are heading to Bolivia for a month to help at the Familia Feliz orphanage and boarding school near Rurrenabaque, Beni in the Amazon Rainforest. The centre is funded and run under the umbrella of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. The orphanage and school has been operational for 16 years providing refuge for children who come from one of the most vulnerable populations in Bolivia.
McBride residents Rochelle Warner, Daniel Warner, Christian Blixrud, Marcus Chernipeski, Tashy Kirby, Beth Thompson and Laura Corbett along with a dozen others from around BC, will be working with the permanent facility staff as they use the summer break to complete much needed maintenance.
Daniel Warner was the first of the group to hear about this opportunity while he was working at a summer camp in the Kootenays.
“He met another councillor, Sara Ross, and started talking about mission trip experience,” said Rochelle Warner.
Ross talked about her past experiences in Bolivia where she helped start the orphanage, and also served as the principal. She told Daniel that she was going to have to return to Bolivia to renew her permanent residency status and told Daniel he should come along.
“Daniel told me I should come too,” said Warner. “Word travelled and now we have a group of six from here.”
Children living at the Familia Feliz orphanage live in family housing type groupings. The girls house is the Casa de Las Lilas- House of the Lilacs, and the boys in Casa de Los Guerreros- House of the Warrior. Some of the students that attend the school also stay in the dorms while others come daily from the local area. As the school year in Bolivia is opposite of that in North America, it will be summer holiday while the team is there working, so the dorms will be their accommodation as they provide support to many different aspects of the organization.
One of the main staff members, Missy, has been working hard juggling school and orphanage operations, but also helping a very sick family member. Warner says that they hope to provide Missy with much needed support through meal preparation, supervision of kids, and in whatever else is needed.
Warner said that they are still getting information from the staff members on the ground as to what the high priority maintenance items are. So far the top of the list is the roof for the church. Warner said they have seen pictures of the building and the roof is caving in. Also needed is plumbing work in the staff housing, electrical work around the facility and fresh paint.
The money needed to complete all of this work has been estimated at approximately $20,000. Warner reported that the group has been able to raise enough for the roof work.
They have started a GoFundMe account, and have placed donation boxes at several businesses around McBride. On Nov. 13th the group, with help from about a dozen more members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, made 375 apple pies, 275 of which had been pre-ordered. The remaining 100 frozen pies have been sold but they now have crisps available by calling Warners at 250-569-0022.
One other commitment the group has made is to hold a week of evening worship singing and prayer with those in the area.
Although Bolivia is a Spanish speaking country, the group is not too worried about verbal communication issues. Many of the on-site staff are Canadian, and several of the members of the group not from the valley are from Bolivia and can speak the language.
Warner and the team anticipate they will be kept quite busy as the to-do list continues to grow. However, they hope to have some opportunities to explore the area as well.
“We will have to see how we progress on the projects before we can venture off too far,” said Warner. “But I expect we will do some exploring on Sabbath (Saturday) afternoons.”
As this small group of young adults heads off to this adventure, Warner thinks that they will all learn things about themselves that will help them as they take their next steps into adulthood.