The Power of Identification

Imagine losing your wallet, passport or social security card. The pain of having to stand in line at the DMV or other government office seems horribly annoying.

Now imagine that office is 12 hours away, you have to purchase a 300 dollar plane ticket to get there and take 5 days off work (unpaid) to stand in line. Once you get to the office the woman at the desk speaks a language you do not understand. She is impatient, maybe even rude to you. Finally, you understand that it is going to cost one month’s wage to get a new card. You make an effort to communicate with hand signals and your limited vocabulary. She eventually processes your card and you pay. Out a lot of time and money, you still fly home relieved. Let’s say you get home and apply for that new job you need to keep your household running, only to realize your name was misspelled on the card and you must make the entire trip all over again. Would you do it?

This is the situation thousands of rural, often Quechua or Bésiro-speaking Bolivians face. In many cases, they have no birth certificate, no I.D. card, and if married, no marriage certificate. In some cases they do have these documents, but errors on them render each useless. In fact, almost 20 percent of Bolivia’s rural population is not properly registered and therefore has no legal identification.

In 2007 Lutheran World Relief partnered  with Fundación Tierra (The Land Foundation) to help remedy this situation for nearly 30,000 rural Bolivians—almost all small-scale farmers. And the results go far beyond fresh new I.D. cards in warn wallets. The project has helped people access better health services, obtain jobs, and secure land to farm.

Over the next few days, you will have the chance to meet a few of the faces whose lives have been changed. An I.D. card is such a small object, but it can have an enormous impact on the life of its owner.