By Gabriel Romano
La Paz, Jul 19 (EFE).- A humble café in the Bolivian capital of La Paz has become a charity figurehead to relieve the Covid-19 woes of clients and strangers alike, as it dedicates time and income to help the most vulnerable.
Rayuela, “Hopscotch,” is more of a community meeting point than a business, according to stakeholder Verónica Mendizábal, a self-professed people and animal lover.
A hopscotch court is chalked over the sidewalk by the café, welcoming visitors to the small hall that makes up the shop’s reception, kitchen and cash register.
Here, people “gather, meet and marry,” according to Verónica, who claims that money was never the priority within its four walls.
The Rayuela café, proud of its role as a spot for social reunions and celebrations, was hit particularly hard by pandemic restrictions.
The charity campaigns started “when we realized our clients were missing,” and “I started to see where they were,” says Verónica, who was shocked to find many of her usual customers were being hospitalized or in some cases had died as a result of the pandemic.
The first help package went to a Twitter user who had contracted the disease, for whom over $700 were raised in an “exceptional” occasion that eventually became the café’s routine “charity hour.”
Half the revenue from 6pm to 7pm sales was deposited into a third bank account to later forward the money to one of the many clients and strangers requesting help through Facebook.
Up to $143 were raised every week, although sometimes the amount barely reached $30, nonetheless a helpful contribution.
In January, Juan Pablo was infected with Covid-19 as he recovered from an accident, prompting his family to campaign for financial aid.
Among those responding to calls for help was the charity café, he tells Efe, as he takes a sip of his Rayuela coffee.
“We didn’t know each other,” he says, remembering how comforting their help was in such a key moment.
After he was discharged from the hospital two months later, he made sure to come by to give Verónica his thanks in person.
Another woman who had suffered serious Covid-19 symptoms also later returned to the café with her whole family, says Verónica, to show appreciation for the support.
Rayuela gave food away during the lockdowns throughout the year when the shop was closed, helping homeless people, random pedestrians or people from the nearby hospital or the women’s prison facility.
The global pandemic, according to Verónica, has justifiably made people more egotistical, focusing on being safe as the possibility of losing everything lurks around every corner.
However, she says, it is important to take the first step and lose fear of the “first contact,” because that is the only way forward. EFE