Friday, November 14, 2014

Six weeks in – Volunteering with Up Close Bolivia so far!

By Hannah Breen

I am in my sixth week of my placement here in Bolivia and so far it has been, without a doubt, the most amazing experience of my life. I have already learnt so much from the Bolivian way of life – being very resourceful; the people of La Paz do so much with sometimes very little. I spent one Friday afternoon in a rural area of El Alto attaching a metal door to a greenhouse using only wet mud, stones and wire. That short amount of time I spent there will hopefully help the family greatly when growing a variety of fruit and vegetables in their greenhouse.

I live in Jupapina, where the community spirit is tangible. One of my main projects and arguably my favourite is Nuestro Espacio, translated as ‘our space’. Half of this project revolves around a local school in Jupapina where myself, Laura and Natasha, with the help of Judith, an in country volunteer, hold an after school club. This enables their parents to work and know their children are in a safe environment participating in educational activities every Monday dinnertime. 

Each session we teach the kids about an important value. One session revolved around the importance of water and water saving techniques. I was impressed with how enthusiastic the children were and their water saving technique ideas were much more imaginative than mine! Me, Laura, Natasha and Julia – a volunteer from Canada - created a huge word search full of water related words, and then the kids decorated a raindrop and cloud. They were really proud of what they had created. 

One boy, named Angel, was quite interested in my camera on my phone and decided to snap away whilst the other kids got creative. Photos 1 and 2 below courtesy of Angel!

We and the children discuss different water saving techniques, 
then get them down on paper, creating a poster
 that they all contributed to

The children get stuck in decorating their rain drop
 with water saving techniques and water related
 words and images, ready to stick on the big cloud
The children proudly present the cloud they decorated and their poster at the end of the session –
 the poster and cloud sums up what they learnt that day

The second half of Nuestro Espacio is ‘Nuestro Espacio Albergue’. This project takes place in a shelter for children that have difficult home circumstances. I work only with the girls, aged 7 to 17, and the idea of this project is to create a positive, fun environment whilst we are there for a couple of hours a week. It is by far the most challenging project I am involved with. Every session I feel apprehensive about how the girls will respond to what we have planned for them, however so far each week has been a success! Especially our latest – it has been Halloween weekend and Todos Santos; a Bolivian public holiday that remembers the dead. Therefore we decorated Halloween masks, explained the history of Halloween in the UK and sat outside telling ghost stories. Me and the other volunteers try to keep the topics for each session quite light hearted, so as to keep the girls’ minds off any issues they may be having outside the project – it’s a time for them to have fun and be young!

Whilst in Bolivia I have experienced an amazing amount in such little time; I have been captivated by the culture, landscape and friendly nature of the people I encounter. I have fallen in love with La Paz and hope that my time here will create even the smallest of impacts.

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