Why Bolivia?

“Why Bolivia?” It’s a good question and one I’m often asked. The answer has to do with Bolivia and its ‘story so far’ and to do with us and our ‘story so far’.

Bolivia is an incredible country, a place of breathtaking scenery and engaging people, a place of fascinating natural and human diversity. It is also one of the poorest countries in Latin America and one of the most unequal countries in the world.

  • In 2012 its UN Human Development Index (HDI) value positioned the country at 108 out of 187 countries and territories, a rank it shares with Mongolia.
  • According to the UN Development Programme, only the nations of Colombia, Namibia, Botswana, Haiti, Angola and Comoros are more unequal than Bolivia.

Bolivia (as I mentioned in my last post) is in a period of rapid social change. As a result of this change it is experiencing a growth in severe social problems such as sexual abuse, prostitution, underemployment, and child neglect. We know that these problems leave individuals with huge deficits in terms of their sense of security, significance and self-worth – problems which readily lead people into substance abuse and addiction.

Street Kids 3

Bolivia is also the world’s third largest grower of the Coca leaf, the raw ingredient of Cocaine and, increasingly, a centre for its consumption and production:

“Not too long ago, poor areas such as in South America mainly produced drugs for use in rich markets like the U.S. But that is changing. New data show consumption of illegal drugs is rising in the emerging world even as their use remains unchanged, or even declines, in some rich countries… While cocaine production has declined in Colombia amid a decade long U.S.-backed crackdown, traffickers are successfully relocating production to neighbours such as Bolivia and Peru”. ‘Drug Use Climbs in Poorer Nations’, The Wall Street Journal, 26th June 2012

Though cocaine itself is too expensive for many Bolivians, a form of crude cocaine called Pitillo is widely abused – as are alcohol, marijuana, glue, and hallucinogenic mushrooms.

“Essentially a chemical waste product, Paco is what remains from the narco-kitchens producing cocaine bound for US and European markets… Addictive after one or two hits, the drug systematically destroys the nervous system. Users quickly become skeletal and ravaged, resorting to crime, violence and prostitution to feed their habits… Paco was smoked in other cocaine-producing countries before it reached Argentina: it is known as Kete in Peru, Bazuco in Colombia and Pitillo in Bolivia.” ‘The 10p cocaine by-product turning Argentina’s slum children into the living dead’, The Observer, 21st February 2010

Those who work on the ground in Bolivia with gangs, addicts and street children confirm that the drug and alcohol problem is serious and growing. The Bolivian government is also aware of this need. In February 2012 Government Minister Carlos Romero spoke of, “the urgent need to establish rehabilitation centres to deal with the proliferation of gangs of violent youths addicted to drugs and alcohol.”

Street Kids 1

Crucially, our reasons for launching Novō in Bolivia are also personal and practical. From 2006-2009 Andy served as the Pastor of Trinity International Church in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. During this time God gave us a heart for this diverse, beautiful and damaged nation. We also now see how he prepared us practically to be able to set-up Novō – giving us a huge head-start in terms of the language, culture, and practicalities of living and working overseas. Crucially, we also find ourselves with a superb network of friends and contacts in Bolivia, including some key organisations and individuals who will prove to be key partners in establishing the first new projects.



What is Novō?

Novō is the name for a new charity which is dedicated to pursuing a singular vision – the vision of creating transformational communities in developing nations, places like Yeldall Manor where hurting and broken people can find healing, wholeness and hope!

The first-step to fulfilling this vision will be to pioneer the first Novō community in Bolivia. This will be a pilot project. Once a sustainable and replicable Novō community is established our plan is to ‘give it away’ using a community-franchising approach with the goal of seeing it replicated 30, 60 or even 100 times. We want to support God’s people in developing nations to respond to their own sense of calling by providing them with the start-up resources, training and support needed to launch and sustain a transformative community.

Is Novō needed?

We believe there is a pressing need for Novō. Addiction is a global epidemic and the need for residential communities in the developing world, where healing and restoration can take place, is increasing year by year.

“There is a clear need for a Yeldall Manor style programme in many developing countries. To be able to sustainably replicate the model will provide help for many with more complex issues surrounding their addiction who want to recover and play a full part in society. In the many countries worldwide that I have visited there are few programmes that combine the Christian ethos, focus on resolving underlying issues and intentional equipping for work that are the hallmarks of the Yeldall programme.” Treflyn Lloyd-Roberts, General Secretary, International Substance Abuse & Addiction Coalition

Why is addiction a growing issue in Bolivia and throughout the developing world?

Bolivia is experiencing rapid social change (population growth, urbanisation, migration, family breakdown) and, with it, a growth in social problems such as sexual abuse, prostitution, child neglect. We know that these problems leave individuals with huge deficits in terms of their sense of security, significance and self-worth – problems to which the abuse of substances provides a temporary, but ultimately enslaving, solution.


To get Novō you need to get Yeldall

Yeldall Manor is a special place – a life-changing community of love and discipline and grace and truth where, since 1977, hundreds of men have found freedom from addiction and new life in Christ.

It’s also a place I called ‘home’ from 1982 and 1999. Yep, I grew up in rehab… but more of that another time!

The Yeldall story is incredible and, at so many levels, instructive. Yeldall began with the compassion, obedience and faith of Bill and Joanie Yoder and their two daughters, Tina and Heidi. Bill and Joanie had a chance encounter with a drug addict on the London Underground and, in response to the cries for help they heard, opened up their home to help the heroin addicts they met on the streets of London. In time, and with the support of local Christians in Berkshire, they bought Yeldall Manor to create the ideal context for this growing work. Since then Yeldall has evolved into a highly regarded Christian drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre as a result of the investment of its incredible staff, quality residents, and generous supporters.

For those of you who don’t know Yeldall this short film is a superb introduction. For those of you who do, I still think its worth a watch!

The Beginning

It’s July 2014 and I currently serve as the Director of Yeldall Manor, a Christian drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre in the south-east of England (www.yeldall.org.uk). I met my incredible wife, Mickey, in 1995 and we married in 2000. We have four fabulous kids – Daniel, Jemimah, Phoebe and JJ.

As a family we are preparing to move to Santa Cruz, Bolivia in order to launch Novō, a charity which will create transformational communities in developing nations – places where hurting and broken people can find healing, wholeness and hope. We plan to leave for Bolivia in May 2015.

This blog is intended to be a place where we can share the journey with those are on it with us – friends, family, and others who share God’s heart for the addicted.

I don’t exactly know what this is going to look like. What I do know is that as we move forward in pursuit of this vision we need to be connected with others and I’m hoping this blog will help us to do that!

If you’re up for it, please click on the link to the right and sign-up to follow this blog by email. There may be a bit of a flurry of updates to begin with but I promise not to inundate you with updates in the long run!

Andy, Mickey, Daniel, Jemimah, Phoebe, and JJ

Andy, Mickey, Daniel, Jemimah, Phoebe, and JJ