My name is Breanne Overton. I am the person that many of you have been receiving emails regarding my trip to Mosoj Yan. That email could have been an update, a plea for donations, or dealing with insurance matters.
I was sent to Bolivia in September 2012 on behalf of the Earley Outreach Fund at Church of the Redeemer. This journey started when I received an email around May 2012 with the description of someone to volunteer three months with Mosoj Yan in Bolivia.
There was no way I was looking to leave my job or even Seattle. However, after lots of reflecting, I chose to follow the Spirit. That led me all the way down to Cochabamba, Bolivia. And, it was not for three months, but for seven months.
So, how was it?
“So, How was it?” Now that I’m home from Mosoj Yan, this is the all-too-common question I first get as I run into people I know.
“Well, how were the last seven months of your life?” I want to say that, but try not to.
The most honest way to answer “how was it” when brevity is key is this:
It was a life-changing experience. I worked with some girls at Mosoj Yan that will never leave my heart. I had some really hard times, and some really good ones. I made new friends, found a new sense of identity in a different culture and in a different language. I went on trips. And now, I miss it more than most people can understand.
When I arrived in Mosoj Yan
When I arrived in Bolivia, I met with the volunteer director of Mosoj Yan. It was decided that, because I was a Pre-K teacher, I could be some sort of tutor with the girls at Albergue, the safe house for young girls who have been sexually abused.
Within a few weeks of showing up every day, I felt so out of place. I felt SO tall, SO white, SO blonde, and was SO insecure about my ideas to “help.”
I decided to casually show up and see what I could do. Most days it was listening to some of the more trivial problems they were having with other girls living there. Or, I peeled potatoes to help them with their daily chores as we danced (and I translated) to Radio Disney.
Wet hair in the morning leads to an idea
It was only a matter of time until I started showing up at in the mornings with wet hair. This is because I had found a swimming pool. The wet hair created a lot of interest with the girls and even the staff at Albergue.
So, I started to think that maybe I can do more than translate Justin Beiber songs and playing with little Susy. I had conversations with the staff at Albergue and the director of the pool where I swam to see what ideas we could imagine.
After speaking with Hermano Tino at Albergue, I learned he was enthusiastic about getting the girls in the pool. However, he couldn’t afford it. I think his literal translation was, “I can provide you the girls, but the rest would be up to you.”
After speaking with Jimmy at the pool, he said he could provide the pool, but the rest was up to me.
I would teach and drive the girls to the pool. They could wear second-hand suits, and didn’t really need goggles.
So it looked like we just needed some money. So, thanks to the mini-grant I received monthly by staying with Sustainable Bolivia, things moved along and we were in the pool.
The girls were loving it! I didn’t want things to stop when I ran out of money or I had to come back to the States. So, I started to feel guilty, again.
So, we created the First Annual Solidarity Swim. The goal was $1,500 to support one year of swimming with a Bolivian instructor. On November 22, 2012 (Thanksgiving weekend in the United States), I swam alone in Cochabamba. However, I also with others in Seattle, Portland, Arizona, Georgia, and even Germany. In the end, the final count was $4,300. The girls at Mosoj Yan now all have their very own suit, cap, and goggles. They also will be swimming for at least two more years!
There was more than swimming at Mosoj Yan
That sums up what I “did” there, but creating a swimming program didn’t take up my whole time at Mosoj Yan. I linked with other volunteers and was able to create some pretty memorable moments with them at Mosoj Yan.
The girls worked with an artist from Kentucky to make their very own self-portraits. They danced with a dance instructor from Colorado, incorporating dance therapy into a dance sequence to show off in Cochabamba. And, because I was constantly talking about the girls and how angry I was about the lack of support they had, one friend from Germany and another from Belgium linked up and were able to pay for and install solar panels at Albergue.
Back in Seattle
These stories are memorable and exciting to share. However, what really tattooed my heart was the relationships I shared with those young ladies. Their lives are being transformed at Albergue from something tragic and painful into something they can be proud of and be happy doing. I can’t even explain how I am changed by their presence in my life for the those seven months. I am still uncovering layers and learning the meaning of it all.
I am still in contact with them and love getting updates. I am currently working on a project with Hermano Tino to get a sponsorship program set up so that people in the United States can become involved with these beautiful stories and heroines of transformation at Mosoj Yan.
So, I am here in Seattle, feeling raw and broken from this experience. However, I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to turn my world upside down by seeing another part of the world’s population.
Church of the Redeemer
Church of the Redeemer is at 6210 Northeast 181st Street in Kenmore, Washington. The campus is a short distance north of Bothell Way, near the Burke-Gilman Trail.
The Episcopal Church welcomes you.