Over time, many rural dwellers have migrated to El Alto for work; however, this rapid growth (now over 1 million) has made it very challenging to provide adequate sewer systems, clean drinking water and housing.
El Alto is also quite unlike any other city as 85% of residents are of pure indigenous ethnicity and 77% are under the age of 25. Often people here do not have formal work; many sell products in the streets as part of the “invisible economy.” Consequently, they lack security and a regular income, which makes caring for their families extremely difficult. Often, children themselves are required to contribute to the family income by working. The impact of a childhood shaped by such poverty can seriously hinder the physical, emotional, and cognitive development of a child.
CMI (Integral Mission Center)
Understanding that families need support to overcome these challenges and live full and healthy lives, CBM and the UBB (Bolivian Baptist Union) together formed an El Alto based project called CMI to do just this. This past week we observed one of CMI’s initiatives, PEPE, which provides preschool classes for young children living in some of El Alto’s most struggling neighborhoods. PEPE provides basic education, a hygiene period to wash and brush teeth, and nutritional snacks. Professional psychologists and dentists are also regularly brought in to meet with the children and consult with their parents.
The program is particularly distinct because the dedicated volunteers who run PEPE are from a nearby El Alto church, bringing a local perspective to the work. Members of the church are also partnered up with each student’s family to encourage community relationships and more personal support.
PEPE is just one of several CMI community development initiatives focused on empowering churches to target and address needs within their local communities. With the support of CBM’s financial and professional assistance, along with the insider knowledge that only locals possess, CMI is making a major impact in El Alto through both word and deed.