May 21, 2021 Update - 1ST “CENTRO VIDA FELIZ” NATIONAL BIKE RALLY
On Saturday May 1st CENTRO VIDA FELIZ hosted their first invitational mountain bike rally as a benefit for the Vida Feliz Center for the Elderly and the sister organization, Vida Feliz Cycling Club. Mountain bikers from all over Bolivia signed up to participate in the 52 km run through the hills of El Torno, with the finish line in front of the Center.
With help from the proceeds of the race, the Center hopes to purchase a vehicle that can serve the program for the Elderly during the week and carry bike club members to events on the weekend. According to Sulma Becerra, Executive Director of the Vida Feliz Center, the second objective for organizing the event was to broaden ongoing support from local donors for the Center’s program for the elderly, especially for the People’s Diner, the nutrition program which has encounteredsignificant challenges this year with the Covid quarantine restrictions and slashes in government support.
The Vida Feliz Cycling Club has already brought local and statewide visibility for the Center, especially since the current national champion in the over 60 category is a member of El Torno’s Vida Feliz Cycling Club. Don Benito currently volunteers with the club training young cyclists every week. The event was originally scheduled for April 25, but had to be postponed because four days of solid rain had turned the trails into a quagmire. This Saturday’s perfect weather rewarded the organizers with a great turnout: 475 participants rode in youth, amateur, expert and master categories. No injuries of consequence and ALL participants finished (a few with help)!!
Sulma reports that the big event evolved so successfully thanks to the many local professionals and young people from local churches who responded by volunteering their time and skills to help with the logistics of attending 500 cyclists and national press coverage. The elderly also participated by sprucing up the grounds of the Center to host several delegations of cyclists from neighboring states of Tarija, Cochabamba and Oruro. More volunteers manned several food stands on the Center’s grounds and served lunch to ALL of the racers.
The Center has been promoting this race as a “clean green” event, emphasizing to all participants and fans the importance of not leaving trash and residues (the telltale result of most public events in Bolivia) on the rural byways and city streets of the race route. And on race day, there were trash bins and volunteers filling them all along the route.
It was an exciting day for all of us involved with the Center, and we were proud to receive many expressions of congratulation and thanks from participants and visitors who commented on the outstanding organization of the event and the praise-worthy objectives of the Centro Vida Feliz program for the elderly. We also got several significant new pledges of support for our 2021 program!
THANK YOU! A special word of thanks from the Administrative board of the Center to each of our supporters from Zion Mennonite church, Roca de Salvacion and Calvary churches! Last week, Centro Vida Feliz received the money transfer of $10,410.00 from your fund-raising event in Oregon! Thank you so very much!! This puts our administrative budget on solid footing for the rest of the year!
God bless you!!
Senior Center - El Torno Bolivia
January 11, 2021 Update
Thank you for asking about the Senior Center. Our greetings to the Witness and Service group.
There is a lot to report but I will try to summarize the activities at the Center.
This picture taken in December 2020 is the active team that serves at the Center. An agronomist, gardener, nurse, cook, youth volunteer, administrators, spiritual leader.
Willan Villagomez (co-director) serving his medical residency at the Center has a group of 40 elderly with diabetes receiving care and orientation along with a medical doctor.
Willan, Sulma, nurse Medarda, and volunteer’s make daily visits to the elderly’s homes for nursing care, assistance in house cleaning, and groceries.
When finished with his medical studies, Willan plans to set up a program at the Center in the area of natural medicine and geriatric care.
Last month a package of food staples, from the government, were given to 200 elderly at the Center. Since last March, because of the pandemic, the government cut the funds that supported the Center’s daily soup kitchen for 100 persons.
Sulma along with a group of nurses from Santa Cruz organized a raffle in November which raise $3,000 for supporting the food distribution. The funds raised at the juice kiosk at the central plaza also goes for food and health care expenses. I (Karen) make cinnamon rolls and daughter Rebeca chocolate cake once a week for the kiosk. I also grew jasmin plants and ferns this past year, sold thru WhatsApp connections, in support for the Center.
The Center’s administration has also organized a bicycle club that 30 adults are members of and one for a group of 30 children in training.
At the Center there is a group of 15 adults that meet every afternoon for exercise classes and physical therapy.
Our greetings to all the folks at Zion.
Blessings to you all.
Senior Center – El Torno Bolivia
Dear Zion Brothers and Sisters Greetings to you from Wendell and Karen Amstutz and news from the “Vida Feliz” Senior Center in El Torno Bolivia. We are having 100 degree weather this past month so we try to stay indoors during the hottest hours of the day. We are grateful for a good rain last week after a 2 month drought when the citrus trees were flowering. Our next harvest will be scarce.
We would like to let you know of some activities that the Senior Center has been up to. This coming Saturday the Senior Center will have a raffle to raise funds for the soup kitchen at the Center or for groceries to take to individual homes if the pandemic continues. We are not sure if the government will renew the past agreements we had in supporting the soup kitchen. They will be raffling off outdoor wooden furniture made in Willans carpentry shop, a live steer, an electric oven, blender, and other surprises. [50bs a ticket is around $7.00 each.]
Blessings to you all. We would love to hear from you. Thank you for your interest and support in the Senior Center ministry.
This picture is of the juice cabin at the main plaza replaced by the old pickup used the last couple years. Fruit juices in season are sold here to raise funds for the Center.
[Click on individual pictures to enlarge]
Senior Center – El Torno Bolivia
Here are some pictures that describe the activities of the Senior Center “Vida Feliz” Bolivia during these months of the Covid quarantine.
Sulma Becerra and Willan Villagomez, directors of the Center make an early morning visit to Wendell and Karen Amstutz’ home on their bikes.
Several times a week the team from the Senior Center take groceries to the homes of the elderly.
Luján the cook bakes bread weekly, produce from the Centers garden and donations from the community are part of the bundle of goods.
The Centers nurse visits homes daily, looking out for each ones well being, taking prescription meds to those under Drs care and to remind persons of special precautions during the Covid quarantine.
Sulma gathered donated radios so each elderly could listen to Brother Ernesto teach Bible lessons on the local radio.
Thank you for your support, making it possible for the Senior Center to continue to be an awesome outreach to the elderly in El Torno Bolivia.
Senior Center – El Torno Bolivia
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
We pray that each of you are healthy and send our most sincere thanks and prayers for each. We want to share with you the goals we were able to reach in 2019 and our projections for 2020.
First, express our THANKS to you…may God recompense all your efforts in donating your love offerings, THANKS for your prayers and above all, THAKS for sharing our faith in a living and merciful God.
The funds that you sent in 2019 were used to pay the salaries for several team member who work at the Centro Vida Feliz (full time Director, part time agronomist and part time person in charge of storehouse) . We also receive support from the Municipal government to pay the cook and cook´s assistant, The Nueva Vida Baptist Church pays a pastor as chaplain and a local donor family pays the accountant. These donations you send are fundamental for the Centro to carry out all our activities.
Here is a list of our goals reached in 2019:
1. We changed the thatch roof on the ´Zion cabin´ made possible by a group of community volunteers, using traditional knowhow from the elderly.
2. We received more than 20 visits from student groups from local schools. They visited with the elderly and brought us cleaning supplies, along with a lot of smiles for the elderly.
3. In December 2019 we finally began our income generating project, serving fresh local juices at the plaza from our ´Jugos Fresh´ truck, thanks to support from the Evangelical University of Bolivia and local volunteers.
4. We received the blessings of harvest from our garden and orchard ( veggies, bananas, lemons, mangos, avocados and medicinal plants). Most went into the daily menu for lunches the elderly members every day.
5. We organized The Vida Feliz Cycling Club to promote cycling for local transportation and as an alternative sport for young and old. The club hosted a national all-terrain bike race here.
6. We opened an excercise class in the afternoons for youth and adults led by a university student.
7. In the summer vacation (January) we offered classes for children (story times, artistic expression, healthy snacks, recreational activites) for children to develop other abilities and interact with the elderly.
8. The daily activities for the elderly have maintained good participation, from 60 up to 100 participants Monday to Saturday in Spiritual life, preventive health, social activities and nutritional support with daily lunches from our kitchen, all of which better the quality of life for the elderly that participate at Vida Feliz.
9. During 2019 we continued to give administrative support to the Network for the Elderly of the Municipality that serves over 2700 persons, especially in managing the distribution of food rations for all of them.
For 2020 we commit ourselves again to keep walking alongside our elderly following our founding principles of charity, service, self respect and respect for our neighbor, solidarity with those that suffer and mutual cooperation.
Finally, we encourage you to continue walking with us in 2020, so that in the next 5 years we can achieve these medium term goals:
1. A vehicle for the institution´s use.
2. General renovation of our infrastructure (buildings and grounds)
3. Initiate studies for new projects and improving our daily programs to strengthen the quality of life for our ´grandparents´ as we call them.
We thank God for each of you and for having brought us together to give a Happy Life to the these elderly of our community.
Sr. Juan Antonio Duran Martínez, Association President; Sr. Wendell Amstutz, Coord. Board of Admin; Pr. Rubén Heredia Justiniano, Pastor Iglesia Bautista Vida Nueva; Sra. Martha Luisa Chavez de Eid, Treasurer Board of Admin; Lic. Willan Villagomez, Director Ad honoren; Lic. Sulma Becerra, Administrative director
Senior Center - El Torno, Bolivia
The “Centro de Ancianos Vida Feliz” (Happy Life Senior Center) is a day center that has been serving the elderly in the town of El Torno, Bolivia for over 20 years. The Center began as an initiative of Iglesia Vida Nueva, a local Baptist church. In September of 2001, a crew of “12 disciples” from Zion Mennonite, Pacific Covenant and Calvary Mennonite Churches spent several weeks working to begin the construction of the Center’s building. Wendell and Karen Amstutz, who are members of both Zion and Vida Nueva churches, have been involved with the center since its beginning in 1997.
The Center is administered by two local psychologists, Willan Villagomez and Sulma Becerra, who oversee an amazingly diverse program including:
- “The people’s diner” -a soup kitchen and hot lunch program
- a large garden
- integrated health care and health education
- occupational therapy and recreational activities
- Bible teaching groups
- home visitations for elderly members who are bedfast or ill
ACTIVITIES: The Center has different activities for the elderly every day of the week. Let’s see what’s going on at the Happy Life Center this week!
- Monday is health care day. The Center’s nurse Medarda Aguilera attends the aches and pains with therapeutic massage and good humor and gives advice on better diet and preventative medicine. Youth volunteers (from the boys home at “El Camino”) often assist her on Mondays.
- Tuesday is Spiritual Life day. Pastor Ernesto Vargas leads the group in singing and Bible stories. The folks really enjoy coloring Bible story pages every week.
- Wednesday is for Cultural activities and occupational therapy. Handicrafts of different types keep motor skills sharp and there are often cultural presentations from visitors or on the screen.
- Thursday is BINGO day! Medarda calls the numbers and gives out the prizes. Bingo at Vida Feliz is a competitive sport and participants don't want to miss a week .
- Friday is grounds keeping and garden day with Agronomist Salustiano. Under his direction we prepare the soil, maintain the plants and harvest the bounty for the kitchen. Nature is so generous to us. This year we have a brand new park with a waterfall to enjoy and to maintain.
- Saturday is socializing day: we celebrate the birthdays of the week, and we often receive visitors from other senior centers, or volunteers from schools or local institutions.
- Every day of the week our cook Berlinda keeps our stomachs happy with a breakfast, snack and hot lunch from the kitchen. The State governor’s office supports the “People’s diner” with a ration for 80 persons a day. With local donations and our garden production, the kitchen staff stretches this to serve up to 100 persons on many days and up to 150 on Saturdays.
SUPPORT FROM DONORS: The Center enjoys support from a broad base of individual donors and institutional partners, local as well as national and international partners. Here are a few of our supporters in action:
- The Vida Feliz Association of Elderly is the founding organization of the beneficiaries and maintains their local leadership. Don Juan Duran is the current president. Each participant pays a nominal monthly due and contributes volunteer labor according to their ability.
- Ruben Heredia, pastor of the local Vida Nueva Baptist church that has supported the center since its humble beginnings as an outreach project of the church. He represents the church as a founding member on the Center’s Administrative board. The church contributes a stipend to support the weekly Spiritual Life program.
- The city of El Torno’s municipal government donates foodstuffs for the elderly every year, pays the center’s utilities and provides the salaries for the center’s cook(and nurse).
- The Office of the Governor of Santa Cruz provides the budget for the kitchen, a major contribution that came to over us last year. (They also pay the nurses salary.)
- Anton X?, a German volunteer who is living and serving at the center through an arrangement with XXX, a Catholic volunteer program.
- Zion Mennonite Church in Oregon is a founding partner for the Center and every year since 2005 has raised funds to pay the Center’s Administrative directors, Willan and Sulma. This year Willan is leaving the Program Director position to conclude his studies at medical school, continuing as a volunteer director with the Administrative board. Sulma will begin working full time to assume those program responsibilities as well as the administrative tasks she has done so competently for the last 14 years. Wendell and Karen Amstutz currently represent Zion on Centro Vida Feliz’s board of directors along with 4 local persons from the community of El Torno.
- The Vida Feliz center has initiated several self-sufficiency projects to supplement donations and provide local services.
The Center rents the facilities to local institutions for workshops and to families for social events and receptions. It is a popular local destination for birthdays and weddings. Last year we enhanced the facilities with a beautiful park complete with a waterfall, the premium spot for selfies!
We are bringing this 1950s International truck out of retirement to sell fruit drinks at the plaza. The renovation is almost complete: it includes a new bed and adapting the thirsty V8 engine to more economical LP gas. The center had a carriage built by a local shop to give buggy rides on weekends when many local visitors come through El Torno. This year’s challenge is to get a carriage horse and driver to man it!
Updates from Bolivia
Jan 10, 2019: Thursday is BINGO day. It’s well attended by the elderly who some are still learning the numbers. Most exciting are the prizes.
Nov 8, 2018: An administrative meeting on November 8 with Sulma and Willan (on the right) who work full time for the Center as directors, Sra. Tita and Sra. Flora, faithful persons from the community, and Pastor Ruben from the Baptist church, and with Wendell Amstutz in the middle.
Sulma shared about her recent trip to Germany where she met with 5 volunteers who have served at the Center in Bolivia.
February 28, 2021 Update
Greetings and sharing from Karen Amstutz and the staff at Vida Feliz Senior Center in El Torno, Bolivia. View Video
May 30, 2020 Update:
"Thanks to God's provision, we gathered fruit from the Senior Center garden and delivered them and groceries to 50 elderly."
February 15, 2020 Update
Every Saturday and Sunday this old pickup moves from the senior Center to the central plaza in El Torno to sell fresh fruit juices in season. Some of the varieties: Mango with Pineapple, Peach, Carambola, Strawberry, Cherry with orange, and Maracuya. Click below to view video and follow this link for photo album.
Tuesday, October 8, 2019 Update
The past 3 weeks since we arrived in Bolivia after 2 months in Oregon, Wendell has dedicated full time working on a new water system for the Espejos community. Margret Shetler’s son David has been a God send, directing the project with his engineering expertise. The last picture is of the community leaders who get together to evaluate the weeks work. Click on image below for photos.
2019 Vida Feliz Report
An administrative meeting on November 8 with Sulma and Willan (on the right) who work full time for the Center as directors, Sra. Tita and Sra. Flora, faithful persons from the community, and Pastor Ruben from the Baptist church, and with Wendell Amstutz in the middle. Sulma shared about her recent trip to Germany where she met with 5 volunteers who have served at the Center in Bolivia.
Check out this 2014 report from Vida Fleiz will take a bit to download this 28 page report