Home » Bolivia » ‘What are you drinking?’

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“What are you drinking?” “What are you offering to drink?” When I am asked the first question, and depending upon the time of day and the setting, I might respond by saying that I would like water, tea, coffee, soft drink, beer or a glass of wine. Having those beverage options is surely based upon my social status and my place of residence.

When I was a young boy, I thought everyone had beverage options. Life, however, has taught me that many people do not have such options and often do not receive what they really need.

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In the rural communities of Tacopaya and Entre Ríos in Bolivia, where Filo and I collaborate with persons living with disabilities, options often appear to be nonexistent. Daily we communicate that the way things are is not how things have to be.

We want José Jairo with paralysis in his legs, for example, to accept that despite his challenges, he can go to school, graduate and learn a skill or trade, which can allow him to earn an income.

We want Zaida to understand that she too is worthy of life’s opportunities and that, working together, she can have a bright future despite her complete lack of the ability to hear and speak. We want Juan Carlos to comprehend, that despite his intellectual challenges, he too can learn how to be a good shepherd so that he can raise sheep and can provide for himself.

In the Gospel of John, we learn of the time Jesus sat down next to a well and taught a Samaritan woman the importance of giving someone a drink of water regardless of the barriers of social status and cultural rules. Through our ministry with persons with disabilities, we strive to give out the “living water” that Jesus taught us to seek out and offer (Jn 4:5-42).

In our project, “living water” starts with the goal of fertilizing a positive — self-esteem; the belief that persons with disabilities are worthy; and that you do not have to be satisfied with the way things are. We continue the empowerment by facilitating the educational support they need to thrive in schools; knowledge of their rights, coupled with the awareness of methods to have their rights honored; and the acquisition of vocational skills for a business.

You can continue, or join as new partners in our project, to offer “living water” to persons living with disabilities by renewing or beginning your membership in our team:

  • A donation of just $40 will enable us to provide a month of educational support services for a group of 10 to 15 children with disabilities so they can succeed at school.
  • A collaboration of $500 will provide for 20 persons with twice-weekly physical therapy necessary, so that they can experience rehabilitation during one month.
  • A donation of $100 will permit us to provide small-business orientation, skill training or contribute toward the startup capital for one family.

To date, your generosity has allowed us to expand our program and to provide “living water” to over 250 children, youth, adults and seniors.


Joe Loney
A Maryknoll lay missioner since 1995, Joe Loney oversees a social-inclusion project for persons with disabilities (Avancemos Juntos para la Inclusion Social de las Personas con Discapacidades) in Tacopaya, Entre Rios and Cochabamba, Bolivia.