In the Yunga’s subtropical mountain slopes of Bolivia where the Andes mountain borders the Amazon region, settled Piet and Marijke Punt. The children home that they have build in Caranavi, is a safe place for children who have no place to live. Dozens of orphans and abandoned children found their way to Casa de Esperanza, the House of Hope.
The decision to go to Bolivia and to do missionary work was not lightly taken. For years, there was the desire to be deployed anywhere in the world. Eventually it became clear that Bolivia was the country where the Lord wanted to use them. After an initial trip in 1985, the family left definitively in 1986. After four years of missionary work, and asking God the question again what His plan was, two things became clear. They would be builders of a children’s home and a training school for young people. An “accidental” encounter eventually offered them the opportunity to realize this.
In one of the main streets of La Paz Piet and Marijke encountered an American man in a restaurant.The American man, who was working as a missionary for a Christian radio station in Caranavi, told us, “Please come to Caranavi. Almost every day I am faced with the desperate need of orphaned or abandoned children who can not take care for themselves”. He offered us a temporary housing until the orphanage would be constructed and he even arranged a meeting with the mayor and aldermen of Caranavi. It was such a wonderful encounter, so surprising and unexpected that we could hardly believe that this is how God had answered our prayer..
Piet: “Once on research in Caranavi everything seemed to be exactly as the American has told us. In September 1992 we bought a large site at a mountain that had yet to be made ready for construction. Power and water supplies were missing, but for me, a mechanical engineering it was not that hard. Since that time, the orphanage has become a complex of six units in which the children live with their supervisors. Everything started small, and required endless patience. Similarly, the confidence of the population. In the beginning, you could see suspicious looks and thoughts: “Who are those white people? Are our children safe with these people who also claim to be Christians? ” Of course we understood their suspicion, so we had to gain confidence by showing in our work who we were. ”
Marijke: “When Abraham came, the first child whose mother died at his birth, we were busy day and night. The skinny, malnourished youngster looked every day a little bit better. And as we walked with him through the village, you saw people look and think: is this the same skinny child from a few weeks ago? Slowly confidence grew and more children were offered to the orphanage. They were assigned by the childs protection office. Very occasionally the gossips were still doing their job. For example, a seriously ill mother came in a panic to get her baby because she thought that religious rituals were performed with her. The fear and superstition are large in Bolivia. Meanwhile, there are more than sixty children at Casa de Esperanza. There was no more room for new children. Therefore, an additional house has been built for the older children who lived with us already for some time. In Casa de Esperanza the children may remain until the moment they can live independently as adults. The space freed by the new teenage home for the oldest residents, was quickly filled with new small children. ”
Piet: “Not only our dream about the children’s home became true, but also the dream of a training school for young Christians. In 1998, the school began. Since then, dozens of young people are educated and trained to workers in their community or consignment. It is a Discipleship Training School as we know from Youth with a Mission. A number of courses are from this organization. The course lasts ten weeks and can accommodate about fifteen students at a time. They stay all the time in the field and do hands-on experience, including in the children’s home. Several times a year we give also short courses for pastors and other spiritual workers who come from all over Bolivia to Caranavi to be better equipped for their task. ”