Working for abundant life for prostituted, trafficked and abused persons in El Alto, Bolivia
Bolivia is beautifully diverse and rich in natural resources, yet one of the poorest nations in Latin America. Still floundering from centuries of exploitation and tumultuous governance, an estimated 60% of the population continues to struggle to meet their basic needs. As the crowning metropolis of the capital La Paz, El Alto is striking at 13,300 feet above sea level. With its raw poverty, intense environment and notorious reputation, it seemed the perfect urban center to begin ministry among the poor. Together these sister cities report approximately 50,000 legally registered sex workers.
WMFB has maintained a consistent presence in El Alto’s prominent red-light district, which hosts roughly 400 beds in a dozen brothels. Here women show the war-torn signs of injustice upon injustice: sexual abuse, alcoholism, domestic violence, single-parenthood, heavy debt and more. WMFB meets her here, hoping to break through lies and awaken dormant dreams. And then, when she is ready, offers her the tools and support needed to reach them. The following outlines our current programming.
Abundant life for those affected by prostitution in Bolivia.
In community we seek to practice and proclaim the Kingdom of God among persons affected by prostitution, through relationship and opportunities for transformation.
We seek solidarity and understanding. We value presence and relationships. For that reason, we visit weekly the largest red-light district in El Alto – and have done so since 2001. There we offer a ministry of encouragement and prayer, along with an invitation to our drop-in center.
In our center, we offer fellowship, discipleship, skill-building workshops, therapy and support in times of crisis. It is a place of healing – a refuge – where women are empowered to seek the Lord’s best for their lives. WMF Bolivia provides direct support for approximately 70 women annually.
SutiSana provides relief from prostitution for women in Bolivia through full-time employment, health benefits and holistic support. Founded in 2010, the social enterprise works in coordination with the Women’s Program for prostituted women to find stability and reach their full potential. Funds generated from this effort are used to help more women find freedom. Shop products and support the artisans at sutisana.com.
We seek to empower children and adolescents to break cycles of violence in their own lives. We offer a holistic program, three days a week, for children affected by prostitution, ages 2-15. Children receive a hot, nutritious lunch, academic or early learning support, dynamic Bible teaching and specific workshops to empower them in leadership. Children and adolescents also may receive therapy and support in family crisis situations.
We seek to awaken an understanding of God’s heart for the vulnerable within the Church and society. Internationally, we seek to provide opportunities to learn and serve among the poor by hosting interns and visitors, and each year we share about our work with dozens of churches and faith-based groups. We maintain an active online presence to keep others connected to our work and share our experience in work with women in prostitution. Finally, locally we engage with anti-trafficking networks and partner with other institutions to pursue movement in the public sector that protects vulnerable persons.