2004-05-13 BOLIVIA

LATIN AMERICAN MARIST NGOS

Santa Cruz, Bolivia. 29 people, brothers and laymen and laywomen from eleven Latin American countries met in Santa Cruz, Bolivia May 6-9 to discuss ways to work together more effectively. BIS, the Institute?s Bureau of International Solidarity, together with SED, Spain?s Marist NGO for Solidarity, Education and Development, sponsored the four-day meeting, the first of its kind in Latin America.

Included among the Latin American Marist NGOs and provincial organizations that sent representatives to this historic meeting were Fundamar (Guatemala), Casa Familias (Ecuador), AVESOL (Brazil), Fundaci├│n Marista (Argentina), PUC-PR-Parana (Brazil), Fundemar (Columbia), IMS (Brazil), Fundaci├│n Gesta (Chile), Punto Fiio (Venezuela), and REDE Marista (Brazil), as well as representatives from SED Bolivia and Paraguay, and PNAEE, Misi├│n Guadalupe, and Comisi├│n Solidaridad, all from a Marist province of Mexico.

The first two days of the meeting were dedicated to sharing experiences, focusing on the work, major projects, and challenges facing each organization. Following initial presentations by REDE Maristas and the Marist NGOs of Brazil, the group took a break and visited various sites around Santa Cruz, including several Marist schools, the Postulancy center, and Plan 3000, a new community development project in that city. At the conclusion of the day, the group was treated to a light supper and an evening of entertainment, featuring music and dance typical of Bolivia, organized by the students of the Colegio Marista.

The last two days of the meeting were marked by honest and thoughtful reflection on the benefits and challenges that lay ahead. Working more closely in addressing the challenges each organization is facing will not be easy. This first meeting showed a definite willingness on everyone?s part to move forward with a great spirit of cooperation for the benefit of all of Latin America. Sunday?s closing Mass was a clear affirmation of our Marist organizations? resolve to act in solidarity for the peoples of this vibrant and dynamic continent.

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