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Project Description

HANNAH IN BOLIVIA

My name is Hannah and I was in La Paz, Bolivia for 6 months volunteering for two separate projects.

H1 MY PROJECTS

Defensa de Niñas y Niños Internacional (DNI)

DNI is an organisation that occupies a prominent role in supporting the challenges faced by families and their children worldwide. In Bolivia DNI works to
promote the rights of children, it does this by working alongside schools to enable children to become more aware of their rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and through helping to establish new laws and regulations in Bolivia.

Centro de Diagnostico Terapia Mujeres (CDTM)

CDTM is a detention centre for female victims between the ages of 12 and 18, of trafficking in persons, sexual abuse, and crime. Schooling as well as therapy is provided for the girls until they are allowed to return home or the necessary paperwork has been completed for them to reside elsewhere.

MY ROLE IN MY PROJECTS

Defensa de Niñas y Niños Internacional (DNI)H2

With the support of DNI, through the provision of an appropriate space and materials, I was able to establish a children’s club called ‘Niños Comunicardores’, the aim of which was to provide vulnerable children with the opportunity to make friends, have fun, and learn about human rights in a safe environment. The initial success of Niños Comunicardores, in an area of La Paz called Pasankeri, resulted in a collaboration with the Assembly of Human Rights and the group being utilised in one of the local prisons, ‘Centro de Orientación Femenina de Obrajes’.

Centro de Diagnostico Terapia Mujeres (CDTM)

My role was to support the girls both emotionally and in their learning, providing educational and fun projects for them to complete. I taught English lesson and took textile classes on a weekly basis. I also assisted with group therapy sessions and in other school classes when necessary.

H3A TYPICAL DAY FOR ME IS…

Living in La Paz (and therefore on Bolivian time) and working in separate projects resulted in every day being different. A typical week would involve me allocating two full working days to Niños Comunicardores and two full working days to the Centro de Diagnostico Terapia Mujeres. On the fifth working day I would dedicate my time to whichever project needed it most.

Running Niños Comunicardores in two distinctly different locations meant that I would hold two meetings a week in order to discuss, plan and develop, with the other volunteers working alongside me, the activities that would be taking place in the coming sessions. I would then be left with certain tasks to complete before the coming session such as making name badges or origami crocodiles. On the day of the clubs I would make sure that we had all the necessary materials, meet with the others for a quick briefing and we would make our way to either the prison or Pasankeri. The club ran in each location once a week for two to three hours. After the session we would head to someone’s house or café to discuss strengths and weaknesses of the session and any problems that might have occurred. It was then often likely that we would eat cake and chill out for the next few hours since the sessions were both physically and emotionally challenging!

On my days working at the Centro de Diagnostico Terapia Mujeres I would arrive around 9o’clock. During the holidays I would spend the morning with the girls whilst they were completing their household chores, this might involve me simply sitting and talking with them, watching a movie or playing games. During the school term I joined the girls in their classroom and would help them with their work throughout the lesson. At 12.30 I would head home for lunch returning again at 2.30. At 3.00 I would begin either English classes or textile classes. These would last until about 5 o’clock when the girls would be called for tea. Sometimes group therapy sessions would be held and during these times my role was to listen and support the girls emotionally.                

WHAT I’VE BEEN UP TO WHEN I’M NOT VOLUNTEERING

During the holiday periods I was able to spend time visiting other countries such as Peru and Colombia, and every now and again on the weekends I was able to explore Bolivia. Most weekends in La Paz would be spent food shopping at the wonderfully bizarre street market and then cooking and sharing dinner with the other volunteers. I also took Spanish lessons in my spare time and baked lots of cakes!

THE MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT LIVING & VOLUNTEERING IN BOLIVIA IS

Nothing happens quickly!

The chance to experience a culture so different from my own, from the food they cook (discovering empanadas and Bolivian cakes) and way they dress to the transport system and work ethic. I have learnt so much about pace of life and the values that we place on things.   

FROM MY VOLUNTEER PLACEMENT I LEARNT/GAINED

The opportunity to work at the forefront of these charitable organisations allowed me to understand the daily struggles that occur in the charitable sector, not only for the children and families supported by the charities, but also for the organizations themselves. I learnt a lot about how charities and Bolivian institutions function with little funding or governmental support and how the struggle between power and the promotion of basic human rights effects the existence of some of the most vulnerable people in one of South America’s poorest countries.

Working alongside children was an amazing experience that opened my eyes to the necessity for committed and enthusiastic individuals to work with those at social risk as well as the requirement for people, the world over, to learn more about the current situation in countries like Bolivia. My work in the prison made me determined to discover more about the provisions made for children at social risk and, in turn, human rights in other areas of the world.

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