Bolivia Solidarity Tour 2017

This is the first blog post of our 2017 Solidarity Tour to Bolivia! Bienvenidos!

On this tour, we have 20 Canadian volunteers, 1 deacon who speaks for Chalice, and 3 Chalice staff.  We arrived from all across Canada, from BC to Newfoundland, and everywhere in between. We’re especially excited to have a dental component to this mission, with three hygienists and one dentist on the team who will be conducting clinics for children and elders from the community over the next several days.
We arrived in Santa Cruz, Bolivia’s industrial hub, late Saturday night, after having all gathered in Toronto from our respective homes, and transferred briefly through Panama City. To everyone’s frank surprise, we all made it and so did our luggage. This is no small feat, considering that the majority of us checked ext­­­­ra baggage filled with donations for the sites, or dental equipment (or in the case of the dental chair surrounded by teddy bears, both!)

Bright and early this morning, we were on a domestic flight to our final destination, Cochabamba. Cochabamba is the agricultural and primary industry hub of the country. They call it the “Garden of Bolivia” because it’s perfect climate and fertile soils supply the country with all its fresh produce. Avocados, mangos and papaya are in season now, so we have much to look forward to! It is a large city with a popular university.

Chalice has four sponsor sites in Cochabamba: Fatima, ASDC, Amanecer and PENNT. The majority of our mission activity will be happening at the Fatima Site, which works out of several locations, including a daycare and a seniors’ centre. The Site Director is Fr Jesรบs, and the site coordinator is Rudy, who has already had us up and dancing the meringue – this man wastes no time.

Upon our arrival in Cochabamba, we had a most unexpected surprise. We were greeted by about a dozen children and adults, with signs, flags, and the most tricked-out tour bus we have ever seen! We even had small gift bags attached to our seats which contained some Bolivian-style popcorn, a hard candy, and a personalized message inside. The care and thoughtfulness of this welcome was humbling and so thrilling. We all agreed it was a major highlight of our day.

We arrived at our accommodations, a retreat centre, to find our names already on the door of our assigned rooms. But not just our first names. Oh no. Our full, only-my-mom-calls-me-that-when-I’m-in-trouble names. As you can imagine, this will provide endless entertainment for the teasing-inclined.
We had an opportunity to celebrate Mass together at the centre’s chapel. Fr Santiago admitted it was his first Mass in English, but if he hadn’t said so, we never would have guessed. It was a refreshing way to come together as a team – the flights and logistics could be set aside for a moment as we came together to share the Eucharist. Two seminarians accompanied Fr Santiago and provided music on a classical acoustic guitar. We might not all speak English or Spanish, but the Hosannas and Alleluias were all the same!

In the afternoon, we took a quick trip up to see Cristo de la Concordia – a massive statue of Christ atop a mountain, inspired by the renowned Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil.  (And this one is actually taller!)
At the end of the day, we reflected that gazing upon such an impressive presence of Jesus was deeply comforting­­­­ --- it felt like nothing could escape the reach of his outstretched arms. We’ll remind ourselves of that image, we’re sure, when the difficulties and fatigue of Mission service begins to sink in. It’s possible to go into the statue and climb to the top and walk around. We joked “how many people can say they’ve been in the arms of Christ?” but, Deacon Phil, ever the voice of reason, reminded us “All of us.”

And so here we are. The end of Day 1 in Cochabamba and the eve of the beginning of our Mission service, all in the arms of Christ. Thank you for following our story and we look forward to sharing with you as we journey together through this Mission.


  1. Wow !!!!!!!!!!
    I remember a comment made by Joanne after her last visit to Bolivia - " when I was there, I forgot myself "

    So far I can see why !!!
    My heart leaps for joy for your mission, hope for renewal and healing, and peace that God's presence strong and alive with His people !!

  2. Thanks for sharing this awesome blog (and photos Kate :))! I felt like I was in Cocha with you. We pray for you daily .... that all Canadians and Bolivians (and anyone else) involved in this Solidarity Tour experiences the love of God in their daily activities!


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