Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Mid-point reflections

Mid-point reflections

I’m sad to say that this week we have reached the half way mark for our time here in Bolivia. Within the last 6 weeks the Strengthening Families team has achieved a great deal, and we have a steady and demanding workload to last us until we pass on the baton to the next set of UK volunteers. In this cohort, we are working with both Aldeas Infantiles and the Hospital del la niños. Although working with two partners has provided certain challenges, and a very intense amount of work, I am finding it stimulating and motivating, believing the work we do to be truly valuable and worthwhile.

Firstly I’ll talk about the work we are doing with Aldeas Infantiles and in our different children’s centers across La Paz. Myself, Anthony, Florencia, Lydnsey and Amy have developed lesson plans to help engage and excite the children for the time that we are here. We have decided to focus our lessons into 3 different themes- focusing on healthy lifestyles and exercise, crafts/creativity and values. So far our lesson plans have been wide-ranging and varied; from mask-making for Halloween to learning about nutrition and different fruits by reading them the Hungry Caterpillar.

Photo showing the children during ‘Balance Day’

The children in mine and Anthony’s centre are always pleased to see us (racing up to us shouting ‘HOLA!’ as soon as we walk through the door) which is a great start to the sessions. Although we are only starting our fourth week in the centres, I feel a massive amount of affection for the children we visit- with each child having their own unique personalities and something to contribute. Also I have learnt that, although my Spanish is constantly improving and I speak it as much as possible, language is not vital to communicating with the children in the centres. Generally being upbeat and enthusiastic is the key to connecting with these children, and they will respond with happiness and eagerness.

And now I’ll discuss the second part of Strengthening Families- volunteering at the children’s hospital. Every Thursday afternoon we visit the children in the cancer ward and it’s always something I really look forward to. I was apprehensive to begin with, as I didn’t know what to expect, but on our first visit my worries soon eased as the children were obviously pleased to see us. The children in the ward are in tough circumstances, but are resilient and want to be children. The ward itself can be grey and sterile, and I feel our visits instantly brighten up the surroundings and the mood. Each child is in a different situation, with some unable to move, whilst others are animated and lively- we therefore have to be versatile in how we approach the activities, with the aim being to allow the children to be happy and care-free for the time that we are with them. I have seen this take place, as the children I’ve been with instantly forget their situation and enjoy simply being themselves and having fun.

So, as I reach the mid-point of this journey, I am optimistic that the work we are doing in Strengthening Families will leave a lasting impact on the children that we meet, and I am proud to be a part of this project.

Written by Martha Taylor-Rowe

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