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Suzanne

Suzanne is the coordinator of FreeHands and is a missionary serving in Bolivia with Latin Link (an evangelical Christian organisation). She and her family have lived and worked in Bolivia since 1999.  She began visiting San Sebastián Women's Prison and soon realised that the prisoners could use their sewing and painting skills they had learnt in prison to generate an income to provide for their families. Suzanne and her husband Charles live in Cochabamba and are committed to serving poor families. They also administer two Christian day care nurseries, which provide an opportunity for parents to leave their young children in a safe, loving environment while they are free to work. They have three children: the eldest, Stephen at university in England, while Katy and Zoë attend a local school in Cochabamba.

Maria and youngest daughter

Maria has six kids, Miguel Angel, Gustavo, Ramero, Roseo, Marco Antonio and Katerin. She and her husband ran an import business and made enough money to buy a house, but as the economic situation changed the house went into negative equity. They could not afford to repay the debts, her husband then disappeared leaving her with the children and thousands of dollars of debt. Because she was unable to repay this debt she went to jail. She has now left prison and is living with her children in Cochabamba (she's originally from Potosi). Her father was a tailor and taught her to sew. Maria is in charge of the sewing section of the workshop.

Viki has six children. Her husband died several years ago leaving her with the pressure of providing for their children. She ran out of money and ways to make money and so when a neighbour offered her money to carry drugs she accepted despite feeling it was not right. She spent just over four years in total in prison. In jail she learnt to sew, paint and alter clothes and is struggling to make her living doing this now. Viki enjoys looking after the shop that FreeHands has in the centre of Cochabamba, for local sales.

Viki
     

Patzy

Patzy assists our administrator.  She is currently studying Spanish, English, French and Quechua at university and works for FreeHands in her spare time.  This helps pay her way through university.  Her mother was in San Sebastian prison.  Patzy attended Casa de Amistad anniversary (a centre for prisoners' children where they get a hot meal and help with homework) and heard about FreeHands.  Since then she has been an enthusiastic worker always with a cheery smile on her face.  Her hobbies are singing and dancing.

     

Alcira has 3 children; Elizabeth, Joel and Jhoselyn.  She is good at sewing and embroidery and when in jail also worked in the day care centre for babies.  Her husband continues to be in jail also for drug related offences and she visits him daily.  Alcira also helps in our own childcare programme  and loves playing with the kids.

Alcira and Jhoselyn
     

Eli and kids

Eli is from a tiny village near the mining town of Potosi, which is one of the highest in Bolivia.  She is the middle one of 12 children and has 2 children of her own; José and Erica.  Eli lived in the Santa Cruz area for several years and paints beautiful scenes from this area for cards and also makes quilling cards which you see on the website.  Eli worked in the nursery inside the jail while serving her sentence and now enjoys looking after all the women's children in FreeHands after school hours as well as producing crafts herself.

     

Marlen has 4 children, Maritsabe, Betsabe, Karen and Christian.  She is the chief buyer for FreeHands and knows where to find the cheapest prices!  Marlen changed a lot during her stay in jail when she became a Christian and her dream now is to support her children and be a really good Mum to them.

 

Marlen and kids

     

Sonia and her boys

Sonia has 2 sons; Jhon and Carlos (named after Suzanne's husband!).  She is from the Chapare area of Bolivia and it was her husband who was in jail.  Sonia is learning how to manage our cafe including making a success of it!  She is our expert at making cross stitch cards amongst other things and also decorating beautiful tablecloths.   She enjoys playing with her children and her dream is to have her own home.

Virginia is from Cochabamba.  She provides social care for the women and assists Suzanne with pastoral issues.  Prior to her time in jail, she studied social services.  She was in prison because of economic difficulties and whilst there, she attended computer classes and helped with the children in jail.  She has 4 children and 4 grandchildren.

  Virginia
     

Maria and Gaby

Maria has one daughter, Gaby.  Her husband is an assistant long distance lorry driver so she sees very little of him.  While she was in jail for possible drug related offences, she started coming along to our Bible studies.  She now crochets the bags you see on our website, working at home so she can care for her daughter.

     

Margarita is from Cochabamba and has one son, Jhonny.  Her  talent is machine embroidery and makes beautiful tablecloths, table centres and aprons.  This is done by guiding the material using a treadle sewing machine which involves much more skill than a computerized one!  She spent 6½ years in prison for possible drug carrying.  She and Jhonny live alone and are very close.

  Margarita and Jhonny
     

Mabel

Mabel was a cook in the jail and is now one of our cooks in our cafe. In addition to local Bolivian favourites, she has learned to make shortbread, cakes and flapjacks.  She has 4 children; 3 of whom are now grown up or at college.  She was in jail for 5 years for financial related offences.  Her husband is unable to work as he severe abdominal problems and will probably need a series of operations to improve his health.

     

Blanca has 3 young children. She was in jail for 3½ years and is on conditional release which means she has to sign in at the jail every day.  She currently works in our kitchen helping Mabel making cakes and shortbread for the cafe.  She is beginning to come out of her shell and chats more with the other women.

  Blanca & her youngest
     

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