Local has bonded with Bolivian orphans
By Connie SteiertEagle CorrespondentBolivia has left indelible memories in Cathy Kiel’s mind: The sweet, innocent sound of flute music from boys at a bus stop; the unforgettable beauty of Lake Titicaca; the laughter of happy children. But also etched on her memory are the many little orphan boys living on the street, and the sight of extreme poverty in this third world country.
In her eight trips to Bolivia, Keil has fallen hard for this beautiful, yet sometimes heartbreaking country. Now, Keil is leaving her own mark on at least one of its towns. During her last trip to Bolivia this past spring, Keil and her boyfriend, Carlon, filled their suitcases with donated clothes, jackets and toys to deliver to an orphanage in La Paz. When they go back this fall, their suitcases will again be filled with much-needed necessities and maybe a treat or two for the children.”It’s such a poor country. A country with a lot of resources, but no jobs for the people,” Keil said.Bolivia has become practically an adopted country for Keil. Carlon is from Bolivia, and the couple returns twice a year to visit his family and friends in La Paz and Cochabamba. Keil, who works in a law office in Eagle, as well as at the Eagle County Airport, uses her employee tickets to fly them there every fall and spring. Although her blond hair and blue eyes are still a novelty, she is treated well everywhere she goes, she said.
“The people are nice to me,” Keil said. Yet she can’t overlook the signs of poverty, in sharp contrast to the wealthy, upper class of Bolivia. The first time she visited Bolivia, she noticed an older man, who looked extremely ill, and she was stunned to find out he was starving.”That really hurt me,” Keil said. Then there are the many orphan boys, who live on the street, perhaps shining shoes for a living. She will never forget the one that came up to her begging for her half-eaten ice cream cone that she was about to give to a stray dog, she said. The native Inca people have it particularly hard, said Keil. One day, she and Carlon saw a 2-year-old child, with an elderly woman, licking in the sidewalk for the salt. Carlon bought them a meal. It is one of the reasons she frequently hands out the granola bars she travels with and her shoes are always shining.
“The kids are cold and starving. It’s hard to see that,” Keil said. But, she adds, they are always smiling, happy. “They don’t need things to make them happy,” she said. On one of their last visits, Keil noticed an orphanage. She contacted Carlon’s niece, who helped her get in touch with the La Paz orphanage, which seemed receptive and grateful for her offer of help.When she visited the 120-bed orphanage, she was surprised at how clean and neat the facility and the children were.”They were so cute,” she said. When Keil returned to the Vail Valley, she went around and contacted local businesses and individuals to see what items she might be able to collect for the orphanage.
“I don’t want to take things that look used,” Keil explains. The Thrifty Shoppe in Edwards and Eagle donated clothes, stuffed animals and dolls. Employees at the Vail Valley Jet Center also donated clothes. Two local dentists Dr. donated toothbrushes and toothpaste; Lisa Fillion gave almost new baby things; and Julee Kramer and the parents at her daycare donated jackets and hats for the cold winters. Keil said she would like to thank everyone who donated items.