A social and educational centre for members of the indigenous Tsimané people

Again and again Pope Francis speaks of the need to go out to the “peripheries”, to the forgotten and neglected, those who have slipped from public attention. Just such a forgotten region is the apostolic vicariate of Reyes, in the lowland tropical region of Bolivia. This is where the people of the indigenous Tsimané tribe live. They live by hunting, fishing, basic subsistence farming and from whatever grows in the rainforest. They are currently being ministered to by five religious sisters of the congregation of the Hermanas Lauritas, who go out to visit the people in their remote and inaccessible settlements on the edge of the rainforest, sometimes travelling by boat in order to bring them help.

Traditionally, theTsimané live in the rainforest, but a combination of environmental pollution, destruction of the rainforest and climate change is increasingly forcing them to leave the jungle and seek new ways of living and supporting their families, for example in the small town ofSan Borja. This is not easy for them, since they are not well prepared for such a radical change in their way of life. The sisters and the local parishes are helping them in every possible way – with education, pastoral care and practical help.

Now they want to establish a centre for theTsimané people, where they can learn to adjust to this new way of life without losing their foothold and their identity. It will be a place where they can seek advice and medical treatment and attend language courses – since as rule they can speak only their own tribal language and do not understand Spanish, thereby making it difficult to get work. They can also learn new skills which will help them find a trade. And of course they also receive pastoral care and support and come to understand and see themselves – though often discriminated against – as children of God with their own innate dignity.

ACN is helping for this project with a contribution of 17,600 Euros for the construction of the centre.