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Monday, January 26, 2015

New Year, new project, new dreams

It is very exciting to start this year with a new project, a bigger team and new challenges. 2015 also started with a lot of extreme changes that I am sure will only improve the work of the ICS Bolivian team and the dynamic between the ICS project teams and the partners.

First change, working with Best Buddies Bolivia and the Association of Volunteers Against Child Cancer.

Last year, due to several reasons, it was decided that two projects wouldn’t continue working, and a new one would start running on January, 2015. As there were two really good options for partners to work with for this project, it was decided that there was no need to choose as there was the same aim to work on which is promoting national volunteering to strengthen our two partners.

Although International Service is quite known in Bolivia for all the work they have done fighting for people with disabilities’ rights, there was never the opportunity to include an ICS team due to the objectives and the needs of International Service Disabilities and Human Rights Programme.

Fortunately, the planets were aligned last December and we found the way to let ICS volunteers help International Service to start one of the projects they are working on with the partner Best Buddies Bolivia (BBB), which works on promoting inclusion through a friendship one to one scheme of people with IDD (Intellectual and Developmental Disability) and people without disabilities. Although Best Buddies in USA (where it started) and in other countries have a lot more programmes running (like employment or leadership programmes for people with IDD), as they are just starting in Bolivia, first they need to set the friendships programme and for this they need two groups of volunteers, the buddies (people with IDD) and the peer buddies (people without disabilities).

As BBB has just started in Bolivia, International Service and ICS volunteers mission is to help them to recruit national volunteers (mostly peer buddies, as we have a fantastic buddies group), develop workshops for the buddies so they can improve their communication skills and have more independence so they don’t feel they depend exclusively on their peer buddies and support of the BBB activities that will enhance the growth of Best Buddies as a “social movement” and the awareness raising of the relevance of inclusion.

We already started working on this and the team we have seems to be perfect to “switch on” Best Buddies Bolivia.


On the other hand, we have the Association of Volunteers Against Child Cancer (AVCCI in Spanish) which is a group of young volunteers lead by a woman whose only compensation is to see that children with cancer and their families have a better lifestyle so they can get through the treatment process with dignity and it can bring them together as a family instead of breaking them up.

This group was born in 2012 with Ana Carola Torres, the actual director of AVCCI and since then it has grown so much it has caught people´s attention. But they still need more help to structure AVCCI better. Luckily, four ICS teams have worked with AVCCI previously (only with visits to the children at the oncology ward at first) and we could share experiences and saw how ICS as a volunteering programme can share some experience with AVCCI.

So, last cohort we ran three baselines. The first one we did on AVCCI’s national volunteers to know how they think they can strengthen AVCCI as young, motivated volunteers and what they think they need to achieve this.

The second and third baselines we did with the parents of the children of the oncology ward of the Children’s Hospital in La Paz, Bolivia on nutrition and emotional support and it helped us identify the need there is to:
1. Inform parents about cancer (most of them come from rural areas and have no idea of what is going on with their kids).
2. Create a parent network so they can support each other and share what they are going through or how they overcame their problems (and maybe in the future help this network to look for options to have an income to pay for their children’s treatment).

Based on the baselines we did on the parents, we developed two workshops on nutrition and two on emotional support from which we had a really good feedback and now the parents said they would like more workshops.

This cohort we will be working with the new national volunteers to strengthen AVCCI’s induction and other processes to motivate these volunteers and prepare them to assume bigger roles at AVCCI. We will also keep working with the parents and the children from the Oncology ward from the Children’s Hospital.

A bigger team to take over the world!

The other changes affected our team size in the best way. From now on the team will be lead by two Team Leaders, two cooperantes and six volunteers. Having ten people per project give us more opportunities to work harder on more stuff.


As Team Leaders we have the amazing Jose and myself (Anita), as cooperantes we have the superb Mateo and María Reneé (who were specially chosen to start this project with us); and our fantastic UK volunteers are Chris, Taylor, Ellie, Kesiena, Caitlin and Florence. This wonderful team will be working on “the new project” called Volunteering and Participation for Inclusion. I know it will be a successful cohort and we will leave a legacy for the coming groups.

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