Monday, April 28, 2014

¡Hola Bolivia!

On April 5th seventeen young people from all corners of the UK made the long and tiring 23-hour journey from London to La Paz. However, even after stopovers in both Madrid and Santa Cruz, the spectacular views from both sides of the aircraft as we descended into El Alto airport quickly got rid of our jet-lagged fueled grumpy moods. As we disembarked the aircraft it was apparent to us straight away that the air was thin and the sun was strong (especially for those of us with Scottish and Irish skin!). During the first couple of days our body's battled in one way or another with altitude, jetlag and getting used to the Bolivian diet. But despite all of this we were eager to explore what would be our home for the next three months. 

While exploring La Paz we bumped into the acclaimed artist Mamani Mamani
Our team leaders and cooperantes had a week's worth of activities lined up for us to better equip us for our roles within the different partner projects, and help us familiarise ourselves with the the sprawling urban basin of La Paz. These included treasure hunts, cultural presentation, discussions of development and human rights, our roles and expectations as volunteers and project specific presentations on the education and public health systems in La Paz, and wider Bolivia. Another key part of our introduction has been Spanish lessons; for those of us with limited knowledge of the language these have been conducted through a three-week intensive course of ninety minute lessons each weekday after work at a local language school. This has been vital in helping us to communicate with our local partners, the children we work with and in our day-to-day lives with the citizens of La Paz. The ability to communicate in Spanish has been fundamental to our personal development and confidence as volunteers. 

Daily life in La Paz

In terms of our project work we have started working on our project plans and in our children's centres, and also at the oncology unit at the local children's hospital, with the aim of continuing the hard work of previous cohorts whilst moving towards towards a more sustainable practice of development.

Written by Ruth Clark and Rachel Finnegan

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