BOLIVIA: Salesian volunteer spends time in Kami helping Salesian programs with hydro plant and ham production
(MissionNewswire) Daniel Jesús Cano Días is a Salesian volunteer who recently returned from three months in Kami, Bolivia using his skills as an engineer to help Salesian programs there. Días is from Huelva, a port city in southwestern Spain, and is the youngest of three siblings. He is an engineer and credits his Catholic upbringing with his desire to give back.
The village of Kami, nestled high in the Andes Mountains, faces extreme isolation from the rest of the country. A persistently cold climate coupled with negative health effects faced by residents due to the tungsten mining industry that drives the local economy, make for harsh living conditions. Residents of Kami have an average life expectancy of just 40 years. Before Salesian missionaries first arrived in the village in 1977, illiteracy rates were extremely high.
With the exception of mining, the sole source of income and sustenance for families in Kami was through farming. And while water in the village was mostly available, electricity was not. Without electricity to power the local school or hospital or to support new business enterprises, the village seemed destined to remain in poverty.
In 2016, Salesian Father Serafino Chiesa, in collaboration with other non-governmental organizations and volunteer groups, worked to connect the village of Kami to Bolivia’s national power grid. They did this by using refurbished turbines to supply light and technology to students, improve medical care to patients and power to a new sawmill facility and other businesses. They even had enough excess energy to enable residents to sell back to the Bolivian Electricity Board.
Kami is now beginning to finance its own sustainable development projects and faces a much brighter future. It was for two of these projects that Días was able to lend his expertise.
“I came for a project that involved the automation of a water inlet gate of the Kami Hydroelectric plant,” explains Días. “The task was completed in a month of work. Then, one of the biggest surprises was when Father Serafino Chiesa and Father Miguel Ángel let me taste a plate of Serrano ham which came from their production plant. I realized that I could contribute not only with hydropower, but also with the production of hams.”
During his time in Bolivia, Días went from working on the automation of a hydro dam gate to the promotion of ham in one of the most important Bolivian supermarket chains. He explains, “I’m an industrial engineer, but the branch that I like most is production. Then, when I saw the opportunity to work in the food sector with the hams and the production of sausages, I knew I contribute with my knowledge. We did a market study, a cost study and from there the numbers were positive. They gave the guarantee that the project could work. It was impossible to imagine that in my last week in Bolivia I’d see the products for sale in the Hipermaxi supermarket.”
Días is very grateful for the time he spent in Bolivia and appreciative of all the work that Fr. Chiesa and Fr. Ángel do to help the people of Kami.
Bolivia is the poorest country in South America and has the most unequal income distribution on the continent. According to UNICEF, 60 percent of Bolivians live below the poverty line with 40 percent of those living in extreme poverty. The poverty rate is higher in rural areas where the rate increases to 75 percent of the population. It is common for Bolivians to struggle to find adequate nutrition, shelter and other basic necessities. The geography of Bolivia contributes to the overwhelming poverty of its residents. Large swaths of the country remain undeveloped with a lack of roads and infrastructure in place.
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UNICEF – Bolivia