Monday, April 14, 2014

Continuamos el camino

A year on since my time here as a volunteer, I am delighted to be working once again with SOS Aldeas Infantiles as part of International Citizen Service in La Paz, Bolivia. Returning as team leader, I am greatly passionate about the work that ICS volunteers are involved in, and am proud to introduce our new team for cohort eight:

Lindsay, 24, has been working for a healthcare organisation and is hoping to pursue a career in the charity sector.
Rachel, 23, recently graduated with an MA in International Relations and is volunteering in development before she starts with the civil service later in the year.
Issy, 21, has been working as a legal intern with human rights since graduating with a degree in law.
Ruth, 22, is looking into a career in retail and management  but keen to gain experience working internationally in education.

This is not forgetting our cooperantes Mirna and Favio, to whom I am grateful for their dedication to the projects, as well as the in-depth knowledge of the thematic areas that they bring.

L-R: Favio, Ruth, Issy, Desi, Lindsay, Mirna and Rachel

In the vein of empowerment and self-awareness, the Ludoteca team will be continuing workshops on social and familial themes of recycling, crafts and nutrition. Parents’ evenings provide a great opportunity for us to deliver on these areas, and a space for us to get to know the community.

We are also planning to utilise and promote an invaluable resource on behaviour management techniques (created by a previous volunteer), and will be researching how best to do this. The team also monitor behaviour through the use of charts and observation (as integral to the Montessori method). Upon this, recent cohorts have produced brilliant research looking into how to engage and deliver educational sessions on technology, science and maths, at the request of Aldeas to focus on these areas. We have inherited some creative resources that should be great fun to utilise again, particularly one somewhat ambitious module on the Solar system and astronomy! With the research on pedagogy and teaching methods the volunteers are in a great position to start putting together their own modules based on personal interest.

We are particularly excited to be introducing a new musical directive to Ludoteca, where we are planning to use music in a variety of ways for its many benefits. It may be that we can work with rhythm to deliver sessions on maths, along with the neurological benefits of sound and pattern. Culture and identity are also integral to performance, and we hope that the incorporation of Bolivian instruments and songs will encourage self-esteem through cultural identification. The sessions will potentially culminate in a concert for parents and the community, bringing all together to support and encourage the children.

Strengthening Families: Fortalecimiento Familiar
Recent cohorts have done a fantastic job in pursuing and expanding their cervical cancer awareness campaign across communities in La Paz. Most recently, volunteers expanded their work on awareness to major illnesses that affect the family unit in Bolivia, notably, breast cancer, prostate cancer and HIV.  Logistically, the campaign moved towards working with local health centres, as to build connections with local healthcare providers and enable an accessible and clear support network for families in their communities.

As we are now a fair way through the ICS programme, I am keen to ensure sustainability in our work going forward, to provide Aldeas’ centres with a lasting structure for managing these impacting health issues. We are hoping to continue working to solidify these relationships and create a concrete network for PAP testing, alongside other major health issues affecting the family unit, with  the aim that testing will improve via familiarity and convenience. I am optimistic with the potential of our upcoming research, looking into technique of delivering sensitive information, alongside best practise for modes of community engagement in campaign and awareness work.

TICS: Tecnologías de la Información y Comunicación
We are very excited to be reintroducing the TICS project to our work with SOS Aldeas Infantiles. TICS focuses on increasing the ICT skills and capacities of children at centres where Aldeas have the resources. The socio have recently opened a number of fantastic computer centres at new and existing children centres – I attended the opening of the TICS centre at Bajo Lima last week, and was greatly impressed and eager for our involvement in the project. This project has incredible potential in light of an increasingly technological environment, and we hope to provide research and support in capacitating crucial skillsets of social communication.

Associación Voluntarios Contra el Cancér Infantil
We will also be continuing our visits to a paediatric oncology ward at the children’s hospital in Miraflores, working with the coordinating charity ‘Associación Voluntarios Contra el Cancér Infantil’. The team will continue visits each Thursday afternoon, organising activities and games on the ward. Past volunteers have found this incredibly insightful and rewarding.

I can see great potential for every area of our project, and am optimistic in the viability of our efforts. 

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