Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Keeping the Ball Rolling

It’s the end of week five and we’re only just beginning to get really stuck into our work. I’m sure we’ll all feel as if we’d like to stay longer once the eleven weeks are up. We were warned before we arrived that development work can be slow and a large part of our job has been to plan and arrange for important things to be done. Which of course is essential! And rewarding in some respects, but nothing is as rewarding as working with the Best Buddies for the afternoon or visiting the children’s hospital. It’s more satisfying to spend your time working hands on as you gain a more immediate sense of accomplishment. However without the planning, organising and jumping through development hoops the work wouldn’t be as beneficial, or sometimes even possible.

In the last week it seems like the objective of our volunteer group has really taken shape. As the Volunteering and Inclusion group our aim is to formalise the nature of volunteering in La Paz, inspire young people to get involved with projects and improve the attitude here towards volunteers and volunteering. We met with AVCCI this week, the children’s cancer charity that provides emotional, practical and financial support to families with children with cancer, and had the pleasure of meeting the volunteers who work with them regularly. They told us of their experience working on the ward with the children, of how tough it can be emotionally but how rewarding it is when the children who are often left to watch television get the time to be children again; play games, mess around and meet new people.

We’re currently organising our action Friday with AVCCI, a day where all the other voluntary groups come together to provide workshops and games for our project. We are thinking of having a small fare in the hospital, with themed stalls and games about nutrition. Today, Sunday the 15th of February, is the International Childhood Cancer Day and AVCCI were gifted fifty tickets to the cinema to take the children from the ward and we were invited to go along. It’s starting to feel like the work we are doing is bleeding into the La Paz community, and I hope it continues that way.
The workshops with the Best Buddies Bolivia group seem to be going really well. I can only speak for my group from experience, who are responding positively and enjoying the work we plan for them, but it seems that all of the volunteers are happy with the progress their groups are making too. And all the Buddies seem to have a good time, which is the whole point! They’re making jokes and opening up about themselves more and more each week. And the tangible difference in their confidence is really encouraging. We have a lot of fun together.

We are also planning a day of awareness and recruitment at La Paz University soon for the Best Buddies Bolivia scheme. The scheme is in place in many other countries and usually each Buddy with an intellectual disability is paired with a Buddy who might be older, or the same age, to hang out with them. They often talk on the phone during the week and take the Buddy’s out once a month or so for a day trip. It’s a simple way of encouraging young people to be socially conscious, to offer them the experience of working with people with intellectual disabilities, and more importantly the chance for those with disabilities to be included and have the same opportunities as everyone else. Best Buddies Bolivia is new and not completely up and running yet. Which is why we want to have this awareness event to try and recruit some great people to join the Buddy scheme and maybe change the way people think of those with disabilities. The event will include a flash mob, a mural and general information about the scheme and why it’s so important in La Paz; where unfortunately like in a lot of Latin American countries people with disabilities are seen as second class citizens, or as a shameful member of the family. Which is why we’re here!
Caitlin McKeon

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