Sunday, December 13, 2009


Last week Daniel Condori completed his third year of studies in the College's Agronomy Program--it was probably the most difficult year of his life. But the difficulties had nothing to do with homework or tests.

Last April Daniel's father Manuel, a construction worker in nearby Coroico, was severely injured in a work-related fall. Although we originally received word that he had died, Manuel unbelievably survived the accident and now, nearly nine months later, he is living at at home where he is confined to a bed--unable to walk and talk.

Daniel Condori with his mother outside their home in Coroico. Daniel's mother earns about $30 US a week for harvesting coca.

The accident has caused a dramatic change within their family unit. It's taken a toll on Daniel, the oldest, who feels torn between his responsibility to take care of his family and continue with his studies at the College. Understandably it's been incredibly stressful for him. A few months ago he came to my office to talk about how juggling school, work, and family was leaving him physically and emotionally exhausted.

But somehow, Daniel made it. Determination and hard work, mostly. "I've worked a lot of construction jobs," he said. This way, he's earned enough income to pay for studies, food, and family. Unfortunately, all the work has left him with no time to complete the hundreds of practical internship hours required for his area of study. "I've had to make difficult choices," he told me, "and unfortunately my studies suffered because of it. But what other option do I have?"

Daniel pictured with his dad in his family's living room/bedroom. (Photo credit Cross International)

Even with his job and his mother's earnings, the family is unable to afford the 30 Bs a day ($4 US) for regular hospital attention for his father. "Imagine! That would cost us 900 Bs ($130 US) a month!" he said, appalled at such an outrageous cost. So Daniel and his mother, with the help of two other siblings, have developed their own physical therapy routine. Daniel also credits the local priest who comes every Sunday to celebrate a mass in their home and help bring his dad to the hospital for doctor visits.

Shamefully, I have to admit, I've only gone to visit the family once--in early October. It was a very sad situation. His father, laying in bed, groaned and moaned as he seemingly tried to explain to me what happened in the accident. Though impossible, Daniel seemed to be able to communicate with his father in some way.

These days, Daniel is feeling optimistic. He reports that his father can respond with "Sí" or "No" and, with help, he can stand up. It's painfully slow progress, but it's nonetheless encouraging. In fact, Daniel smiles and laughs when he talks about his dad's simple, yet seemingly miraculous abilities.

And then laughter quickly turns to eyes welling up with tears as he tells me, "I love my dad and I give thanks to him for everything he's given me throughout my life. I just want him to get better; I can't stand watching him suffer."

Daniel is the oldest of three siblings. His youngest brother (left) is in high school. His other brother (right) just finished his obligatory year of military service and wants to study in the UAC-CP.

In the end, Daniel knows that he can't let his situation get him down. And I know he recognizes that in some bizarre way this experience will make him stronger--I know this because that's what he tells me.

Daniel is definitely ready for the two-month summer vacation. He plans to spend some of that time in La Paz with his father looking for someone who can help them with physical therapy support. "So I'll see you at the end of January for class registration," I confirm as we say goodbye in the traditional Bolivian way with a handshake and kiss on the cheek. "Yeah," he responded unconvincingly.

But because Daniel made it through this past year, I am pretty optimistic he'll be back next semester. That's what his dad would want.

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