Did The Tour May 2010 - Not A Bad Thing

by Shark

I was torn but decided to check out San Pedro prison. It was an eye opening experience. I can't imagine being a child in that kind of environment.

My guide told me that the money I paid for the tour went towards bribing the guards, paying the outside contact and for hygiene products and building materials for the residence of his sector. His "tip" and the "tip" for the 3 body guards was a separate fee, which I am assuming they have to give part of to the sector. However people do lie so how much of the money if any helped the community I don't know.

I agree with the author of this article that these tours are not the best thing but taking a critical passive approach is not the answer either. If I had not done the tour I would have no idea that people actually live the way these people do, it is one thing to read about it but to see it can inspire people to do good things. I wonder has the author contacted Brad Pitt's production company and asked them if they are donating part of the proceeds of the movie to the kids and or inmates? It is entirely possible that they plan to do so and if not perhaps a gentle suggestion would prompt them to do so. Has the author contacted the writer of the book and his subject to see if they have donated any money? If they haven't it would be great publicity for them to do so and they come off looking like awesome humanitarians so it would be in their best interests to make a very public donation.

So to sooth my wasp conscience over going in to the prison I made a donation; Save the Children is involved in the San Pedro prison with a few different programs for both the children and their parents. I donated the same amount of money that I paid to get into the prison. 90% of all donations go towards the programs, not just to the kids of San Pedro but to kids of other incarcerated parents and underprivileged kids in general. They don't just give them money they teach them skills which I think is very important. If I had not gone into the prison I would not have made this donation. Here is a link to the info on the program http://www.savethechildren.org/countries/latin-america-caribbean/bolivia/bolivia-success-story.html

To the author of this article, get off your butt and contribute to a solution, it is more productive than criticizing. Odds are good that people will not stop going to the prison so find a way to use it to help those that need it.

Because of my visit I saw any number of ways that these folks could be helped in the short and long term but it needs to be done by someone living in the area. A couple of ideas and I am sure if people think on it they can come up with more.

Donated used kids clothing from the people of La Paz (someone could set up a clothing drop place and take the donations into the prison)

Internships/job training for the non incarcerated parent through local businesses so they can afford a place to live and can move out of the prison

I would suggest organizing food and hygiene product donations but I fear that those items may be taken away and sold.

Again there are any number of ways to help these folks and I encourage everyone to do so if you can. And by that I mean if you can afford to take the tour you can afford to make a donation :-)

Comments for Did The Tour May 2010 - Not A Bad Thing

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Sep 25, 2011
Reply to ?Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" by BoliviaBella
by: Anonymous

If it were not for books like ?Marching Powder? many of us living our super safe and sheltered western life, would not be aware of the inhumane way people are treated by corrupt officials. Cruelty & corruption is evident from the first, starting at the FELCN where Thomas was held for 13 days before going to the prison itself. I am glad illegal drug traders are caught and imprisoned, but the imprisonment and punishment should be humane. How would I or others even know of these places or the inhumane treatment of the prisoners but for such books? How can we consider helping, if we do not know? Any upcoming film will bring greater awareness of the need and how can that be a bad thing? Not everyone who reads the book or sees the movie will be moved into the action of donating or volunteering, but some will.

I am also confused how it can be better for a child to live where it?s parent is constantly hearing about murders and rapes on the news every day and brought up in an atmosphere where its mother is afraid to walk around at night. Rapes and murders can and do happen anywhere, but if it is happening to the extent where you feel unsafe walking your own neighbourhood and you have lost your feeling of freedom, why bring up your child there by choice? Agree, I would not like my child to go through metal detectors set up at the front door of the public school system. But then again, I would not like to live anywhere where those around me could potentially be bearing arms (as per their right under the USA constitution). But given the choice, I would pick the metal detector at school option over the option of bringing up my child with the fear and the loss of the feeling of freedom to which you freely admit.

Jun 22, 2010
Volunteering with San Pedro Prison Kids in La Paz Bolivia
by: BoliviaBella

Miss London, if you're very concerned about the children at the San Pedro prison in La Paz, and in volunteering or finding ways to connect volunteers with them, contact Reach Bolivia. It's not at all necessary to enter the prison itself to help them out. In fact, most volunteer program won't let the volunteers into the prison. The children spend most of the day outside at school and there are many volunteer programs that work with them. Reach Bolivia is just one.

Jun 22, 2010
San Pedro Tours- Safe?
by: Anonymous

I am going to La Paz in August and am just wondering how safe these tours are? Are tourists in any danger on the tours?

Jun 19, 2010
thanks for being positive
by: Anonymous

I personally didn't agree with everything on the San Pedro prison article, but I applaud the author for the fresh, positive perspective of Bolivia on the rest of the site. No one is a victim of circumstance. If she's having a positive experience in Bolivia it's because she's obviously injecting positive vibes into the world around her.

Jun 16, 2010
by: Miss London...

Hey Shark,

I would really like to go to san pedro to give support to the children and families in there and look at how other charities can help them from the UK.

I have to admit I thought these tours had been completely stopped so am quite surprised to see that you went in May...I will completely understand if you decide not to say but i'd like to know how you managed to gain access to a visit inside the prison. Also, i've read on this and other websites that they are not overly friendly with Europeans now so i wonder if its safe for a European woman to visit?? I really want to help and the only way i can really raise awareness is from literally seeing it with my own eyes in order to really report the seriousness of these issues in san pedro to UK charities in order for them to realise how much help they really need to support the children...surely this is just breeding a clan of potentially dangerous young adults being brought up in this type of environment!

if there is any advice you can give it would be much appreciated.


Jun 10, 2010
not everyone has a bad experience
by: BoliviaBella

Actually Paul we offer the services we offer because people requested them.

I offer translations because that's my profession and has been for over 20 years, which is 18 years more than this site has existed.

As for not speaking about the negative I believe you've not read through the site enough (which is understandable, it does have hundred of pages). (My last long complaint was against the insanely high rental prices in Santa Cruz, for example. Prior to that I wrote about the huge increase in drug trafficking, soaring crime rates. etc. etc.)

As to commenting on local news and politics, I'm sure you know as foreigners we are not welcome to give our opinions about local politics.

However, do you read our news page? It's available (little green button to your left) on every page of the site. The news updates continually throughout the day and the news stories you mention below are on that page.

Jun 10, 2010
"Rosey" Bolivia
by: Paul

To Bolivia Bella I think you misunderstood me. I did not state that you painted life in Bolivia's prisons as "rosey", I was referring to the country in general. Your constant refusal to publish any negative comments about what is really happening here amazes me, especially given the polital and social unrest currently being experienced. But, of course, you have a vested interest in not painting a fully-rounded picture of life here, do you not, now that you provide so many "services" to visitors/citizens coming to live here, such as your "finding a home" service, "visa and other legal document" service, "translation services" etc., etc. A nice money-earner for you, no doubt, so obviously you don't want people to know about the recent lynching of 4 policemen, the almost-daily confrontations between market traders and police right here in Santa cruz, the "no-go" areas in the north of Bolivia.... Get real, Bella!!!

Jun 09, 2010
beauty is in the eye of the beholder
by: BoliviaBella

To our visitor Paul I'd just say that I fail to see where I painted life in Bolivia's prisons as rosey? There is mindless murder and violence in every country of the world.

I grew up in Bolivia and I've seen this country change, it's true and it's horribly sad. I remember just 10 years ago when I moved back to Bolivia after living in the US for 5 years. One of the things I loved the most about Santa Cruz was the feeling of absolute relief that I felt because I didn't have to hear about murders and rapes on the news every day. I loved that I could walk around at night without being afraid. That's feeling of freedom is gone now.

However, my most recent return to Bolivia was primarily motivated by the fact that my child was about to start school and I didn't want my child to have to go through the metal detectors set up at the front doors of the U.S. public school available in our town ... so ...

I guess I'm just a glass-half-full kinda gal.

Jun 09, 2010
very involved and not passive at all but thanks
by: BoliviaBella

Hi Shark, thanks for your comments. The way you responded to your visit to the prison is very commendable and I'm glad you shared that you donated. People don't need to illegally visit the prison to volunteer or donate. There are a lot of volunteer programs that work with the prison families. We feature some of them in our free volunteer program promotion section but there are tons more.

I work very actively online through BoliviaBella to continually promote volunteer programs all over Bolivia and our website visitors have responded by donating quite frequently. We often post pictures so they can see their funds being put to work. Because I live here, offline I work very actively volunteering and donating my own time and funds for several local volunteer programs and the arts as well. We are anything but passive.

We're very aware people won't stop taking this tour and authorities won't stop allowing them. Hopefully your story will at help encourage other tourists who take this illegal tour to adopt a different attitude.

Jun 08, 2010
soothe your conscience
by: Anonymous

Relax it's just somebody's opinion. If making a donation soothes your conscience then do it.

Jun 04, 2010
Well said my Canadian friend!
by: Paul

I totally agree, a very well-balanced and positive article, far more so than the author's attempt. And you are so right about film stars and authors, if they can't make donations on humanitarian grounds, then they can look at boosting publicity and sales and thus earning them even more money than most of us will ever earn in a lifetime.
As you say, it's only by experiencing these things first hand that you get a true picture and feel of what these children are going through, and of course, a valuable insight into the corruption so rife in all areas of this country, despite the author's fervent desire to picture everything so rosey in a country where lawlessness, mindless violence and murder are so rife.

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