Bolivia has one of the highest rates of violence towards women in Latin America. Culturally, women are undervalued, and so when violence and poverty are high, women and girls are the most vulnerable to exploitation.
The founders of Project Suma, Andy and Andrea Baker, began their work in Bolivia in 2001, spending time weekly with the women in the largest red-light district in El Alto – a district with roughly 500 beds in 19 brothels. The capital of Bolivia, La Paz, and the adjoining city of El Alto report approximately 27,000 legally registered sex workers.
Project Suma uses a holistic approach to healing by addressing the whole person, including their families. Not only do they provide emotional, practical and spiritual support, their team also offers a trauma-informed, 7 component process that moves through a victim – survivor – thriver model.
Their team continues weekly outreaches to the brothels where women bear the war-torn signs of injustice upon injustice: sexual abuse, alcoholism, domestic violence, single-parenthood, heavy debt and more. Project Suma meets them here, seeking to break generational cycles of abuse, awaken dormant dreams, and provide tools and support needed to reach them if requested.
Their drop-in center, in the heart of the red-light district offers community, discipleship, vocational training workshops, therapy, and financial support in times of crisis. It is a place of healing, a refuge. Project Suma provides direct support for approximately 180 women annually. With over two decades of experience, this holistic approach has brought wholeness and healing that redirects the cycle of trauma, poverty and exploitation in families.