Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Zeeshan Ali Talks about his time in Bolivia with the Volunteering and participating for inclusion project.

Week 6, how is it week 6 already?! Bolivia, as we learned on pre-departure training , is a polychronic culture and it was initially quite difficult to adjust to such a way of life. But it is clear that there is something to be said about putting people before time; neighbours before meetings and so on. I suppose one of the downsides is that you lose track of time and you end up being over half way through your ICS journey without realising it! 
Having said that, as I reflect back on my time in La Paz so far, I see that lot has happened. The Inclusion project has involved many workshops. The most difficult for me was the emotional support workshop. Working with parents who have children with cancer and offering them advice on emotional support was not the easiest thing I have done but the thanks we got from the parents after the workshop made it worthwhile. Knowing that we had offered them that little relief made it a positive experience. The workshop also allowed parents, who are going through similar experience, to get together and share their experiences and feel less alone. With this in mind, the experience was also quite cathartic. 
Another positive experience was the Best Buddies International EventSeeing how Best Buddies is implemented worldwide, working with the Bolivian volunteers, and seeing how Best Buddies is being established here in Bolivia was a great experience. The workshop involved different stations exploring issues such as disability awareness; accessibility in La Paz; education, training and employment and breaking barriers. After the workshop, the guests and buddies were escorted to the auditorium for the awards part of the event. This is also where we got to show off our moves as we all danced to Pharrell Williams - Happy. This really got the energy flowing and, even though some were finding it embarrassing at first, it was worth it because we saw the buddies having such a great time. 
Seeing the Best Buddies receiving awards and celebrating their achievements was great; however, the best part for me was running the workshop on accessibility in La Paz. We invited parents, people with disabilities and university students to discuss issues on accessibility in La Paz. It was great to see the guests discuss and debate the issues in such depth and it was great to see that people are active and aware about the municipal issues that affect them directly and/or indirectly. 
The guests views on accessibility issues in La Paz 

So far, as I have said many times above, the ICS programme has been positive. Working on issues in cultural setting I have very little experience of has proven both challenging and rewarding. Understanding the Bolivian concept of disability, and then working around said concept has been a fruitful challenge as it has allowed me to fully understand the weight of cross-cultural differences and the importance of being sensitive to such differences. 

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