How did we start?

Many travellers feel overpowered with a sense of helplessness when they see the misery and poverty present in developing countries. They feel uncomfortable and powerless in their role of (rich) spectator. Occasionally this leads to spontaneous action, very occasionally this has  long-term consequences...

In 1994 I was in Bolivia as a travel guide for Dutch tourists. With the Bolivian guide Eduardo, son of a passed-away mine worker, we went down into the dark dusty (silver)mines of Potosí to witness the miners working there under medieval circumstances. When we came out of the mines three hours later, exhausted, we were shocked. What we had just witnessed was impossibly sad and we could not just leave Potosí without helping these people. That we could shower and eat and continue on our trip was too great a contrast with the fate of these people who went down into hell on daily basis... Right then and there we decided we wanted to help the mine workers, we couldn’t just leave them empty handed. But what should we do?

After conferring with the guide and the mine workers we decided to buy radio equipment, this way the mine workers could alarm an ambulance in case of an accident. This was the first in a series of projects and the initiative grew into a foundation in 2002: Amigos de Potosí. Later I found out that there are still hundreds of children working in the mines.... A nightmare. But a dream grew out of this nightmare: for the children to go to school instead of the mines. (Margret Kamphuis)