Editor’s Note: Missioner Jeff Sved shares a recent event from his time of prison ministry in Bolivia.
Expo ReIncorpora: 1st Feria Productiva de Recintos Penitenciaria (The first annual fair/expo of products made within the prisons.)
To say this weekend was a success would be an understatement. Opportunities to sell goods other than inside the prison or at the door are hard to come by. Sales on any given week are hit or miss, leaving many men and women within the prisons in Cochabamba wondering when their next meal will come.
While living inside prison in Bolivia, you are responsible for all costs of living including food for yourself and your family as well as rent for your cell. Simply put, if you aren’t working and selling what you make then you aren’t eating. Productivity in the prison is not the issue, though. The quality of the products has never been a question. The problem is and continues to be how to get these products to a market where large quantities of sales are possible.
At least for one weekend, that problem had a solution: Expo ReIncorpora.
After months of planning by Regimen Penitenciaria, FEICOBOL (the organization that owns the fair grounds and hosts countless ferias annually), the police department, and a Bolivian equivalent of the Associated Press (Federación de Medios de Comunicación, Asociación de Periodistas, y Federación de Trabajadores de la Prensa) 25 inmate vendors represented the various workshops of the six prisons at an all-weekend exposition and fair.
The press definitely did their part in getting the word out:
Also, here’s a collection of pictures from the event. All those in yellow-green shirts are vendors who call the prisons home. The shirts were made by a group of tailors in San Antonio. You may notice a brown shirt mixed in with all the yellow/green shirts and military uniforms.
The three main interviews in the video (sorry they’re all in Spanish) are with the director of Regimen, the inmate representative of the six prisons (she’s the head of the council of the delegates that run each prison), and the director of FEICOBOL. The men and women in the prisons had center stage all weekend and they did not disappoint.
Over 5,000 people came over the three days of sales and purchased around 3/4 of everything we had brought to sell – around $30,000 in total sales. It definitely made getting things back to the prison much easier! There was barely anything left.
There was a brief pause to celebrate the success, but already focus within the work groups has shifted to using the funds from this expo to buy materials and get ready for the next opportunity. Hopefully there will be some opportunities around Christmas, but as always the question remains how to get products and vendors from the prison to these markets.