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Mission Monday: Navigating the Market

Missioner Jeff Sved shares an update from Cochabamba, Bolivia where he’s learning that a busy outdoor market can look very different from the vendor’s point of view…
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As part of my normal Saturday routine (or as much of a “normal” routine as is possible), I spend the afternoon in the Cancha buying our week’s worth of fruits, vegetables, rice, and pasta.  The Cancha is a gigantic open-air market that has anything and everything you could possibly imagine… the only problem is finding it.

After a few months I’ve started to learn where things are and I’ve gotten accustomed to the process of “discussing” the price as well as the quantities in which things are sold: oranges and most other fruit – veinticinco (25) or mitad (12); rice, pasta, quinoa, flour – cuartilla (3 kilos) or also a kilo; and peanuts and raisins – libras (pounds), though I have yet to learn why certain things are sold by the kilo and others by the pound.

Over the past few weeks, however, I’ve been able to see the Cancha from a very different angle: as a vendor. With Pastoral Penitenciaria, I’m working with many of the artisan groups in Cochabamba’s prisons which now includes selling products in the Cancha.

While in the Bolivian prison system, many are involved in different production groups ranging from carpentry, to shoe-making, to various craft goods. The biggest problem being how and where to sell them; tables at the door of and within the prisons haven’t been the most productive places for vending.

Many prisoners and their children depend on the money they can earn to pay for their food, housing and any other costs of living in the prison. But because they lack the opportunities to leave the prisons to sell their products they rely mostly on outside orders.

I say they rely mostly on outside orders, because now we are blessed to have a table in the Cancha outside of a local church where we can sell some of their products.  So now I see both sides of the Cancha on the two busiest market days: as a buyer on Saturdays, and a vendor on Wednesdays.

Jeff Sved served in Cochabamba, Bolivia, from 2013-2016. His main ministry was working with inmates in seven prisons throughout Cochabamba.

Prior to joining FMS he served in Wilmington, Del., with Franciscan Volunteer Ministry teaching math in a prison and teaching English to members of the Latino community. Originally from Pittsburgh, Penn., and a graduate of Villanova University.