Development & Aid, Education, Europe, Headlines, Latin America & the Caribbean

SPAIN: Puppet Marathon for Building School in Bolivia

Tito Drago

MADRID, Aug 28 2010 (IPS) - The 17th Titirilandia (Puppetland) Festival will conclude with a marathon puppet show, to be held Sunday Aug. 29 in Spain’s capital city in aid of a school in the remote Bolivian mining province of Potosí.

Elisa Iglesia, in charge of volunteering for Ayuda en Acción (the Spanish branch of Action Aid, an international anti-poverty agency), who is helping with the marathon, told IPS the idea of ending the puppet festival with a marathon to raise funds for educational projects in countries of the developing South was conceived in 1994.

Action Aid Spain has been the beneficiary of funds raised in 15 of the 17 annual marathons, and receipts this year will go towards building a school in Tacara, in the southwestern Bolivian province of Potosí. The direct beneficiaries will be 207 Quechua Indians in that remote community.

Children in Tacara have to walk 15 kilometres, or three hours and a half, to the nearest school. Not surprisingly, 58 percent of the children do not finish primary school, even though it is compulsory.

“Building a school will give them the chance of a more just and dignified life,” said Iglesia.

The Action Aid volunteer said they plan to “build a classroom and equip it with school furniture and appropriate teaching materials, as well as housing for teachers, and a toilet block. Teachers and school officials will be offered tailormade training workshops.”

There are 36 children among the 207 people living in the tight-knit farming community of Ayllu Q’orqa, in the vicinity of Tacara.

Iglesia explained that the distance of the village from the nearest town means that municipal and provincial authorities pay very little attention to its basic needs, “especially infrastructure for schools.”

Not only do the children have to put up with education that is far away and unreliable, but teachers themselves lack basic tools for their work.

Iglesia said the Titirilandia cultural association has become a “strategic partner” of Action Aid, because “we share the goals of working towards a fairer, more equitable world, paying special attention to children, through puppets, stories, theatre and other activities.”

In 1994 the funds raised went to a project in Rwanda, and then to Nicaragua (1995), Bolivia (1996), El Salvador (1997 and 1998), Peru (2002, 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2009), Mexico (2004), India (2007) and Honduras (2008).

The marathon, like the festival, is held in Madrid’s historic Parque del Retiro, and six groups of puppeteers and other storytelling groups will take turns performing. They are offering their shows on an honorary basis, without even charging expenses. There will also be a tombola, as well as workshops and other activities.

“Puppets entertain and are also educational,” said Carlos Alpuente, a teacher who regularly brings his pupils to the marathon.

The school in Tacara is part of Action Aid’s extensive work in Latin America.

The NGO has built 350 earthquake-resistant housing units in the south of Peru since an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale killed 596 people on Aug. 15, 2007 and left tens of thousands homeless.

It has also funded the building of 24 new schools serving more than 4,000 students in the districts of Santiago, Ocucaje and San José Los Molinos, which were the most affected by the earthquake, and continues to support business projects to assist recovery of the local economies.

Action Aid says its support and technical advice has helped many families hit by the quake to start income-generating projects to improve their living conditions, such as production of construction materials, especially stone, as well as plant nurseries and livestock raising.

It also funded the area’s first fish farm, a country restaurant, electric light and water services and biodigesters for the treatment of waste water.

Post-earthquake reconstruction in the area was also funded by the official Spanish international development aid agency (AECID), local bodies in Spain and a number of private companies.

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