Second-year lay missioner Kitzi Hendricks writes about her current ministry in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
Every 26th of June, organizations and individuals all over the world stand together in solidarity to support victims of torture and bring awareness to this atrocious violation of human rights.
As a part of an organization in Cochabamba that provides accompaniment and comprehensive support to victims of torture and state violence, I have witnessed, firsthand, the importance of conscientiousness and the dire need for rehabilitative resources for our brothers and sisters who have been directly or indirectly affected by this inhumane cruelty.
My two Bolivian co-workers, Isabel Chuquimia and Lic. Zulema Callejas, started ITEI Cochabamba (Instituto de Terapia e Investigación sobre secuelas de tortura y violencia estatal—Institute of Therapy and Investigation regarding the consequences of torture and state violence), just ten years ago, with the support of ITEI-La Paz founders Emma Bolshia Bravo Cladera and Andrés Gautier. The demand for integral attention in the Cochabamba area was rapidly increasing and the need for more centralized offices was impossible to ignore.
Since its inauguration on May 8, 2003, Isabel and Zulema, along with the accompaniment of foreign volunteers, have provided medical, psychological, and social support to persons affected by political and social repression, persons affected by torture during the times of the dictatorships, survivors of massacres, family members of the deceased or missing, persons returned from exile, persons affected by the infamous water wars (among many other political conflicts), refugees, and women in the prison at San Sebastián Mujeres.
And every year the number of persons seeking attention increases.
I have had the opportunity to go on house visits in Cochabamba’s outskirts and to be present and listen to the interviews and life stories of many of these survivors of torture. However, since I am still new to this organization and have only been serving full-time for about three months, my main experience has been working with a group of Senegalese refugees who fled their war-ridden region so that they would not be murdered by the political rebels.
I could write many words regarding this situation and the sheer horror that the young men experienced in Senegal, but the most powerful way for me to depict the desperation of the conflict and the dire need for worldly awareness and resources for victims of torture is through the photos that I took of a march in the streets of Cochabamba. I had the opportunity to accompany them on this march and the power of their faith and strength brought me to tears.
United in our voices and in presence, ITEI – Cochabamba will be putting on an exposition in the main plaza of downtown Cochabamba this morning, offering information and dance and theater presentations by local groups depicting the theme of torture in Bolivia. We also will be presenting a free movie at a local theatre on Friday morning that will provide awareness of the effects of torture and state violence to students and members of our community.