Friday, July 26, 2013

The Start of Something Big

We have now entered our fourth week and have started working on our respective projects and centres.  As such it seems right to take part in a bit of a retrospective of what we have done.  Because this week we will be bombarding you with blog entries telling you about the fun and exciting adventures we have had, I have been tasked to write about the fast-paced and exciting world of planning projects in Bolivia. Hold on to your seats kids. 

Before I start making comments about ‘Bolivian Mean Time’ for example, it is probably better for us to quickly summarise what we wish to achieve in our time here. 

One of our primary activities is undertaking an investigation into preventable diseases in the communities that we work in.  This information will be used to help us, and future groups of volunteers, to develop an education module on preventable diseases.  Educators in the centres will use this resource to facilitate workshops on preventable diseases, and the measures young people can take to limit their likelihood of catching them.  This is done with the hope of ChildFund taking these modules further afield into the rest of Bolivia and potentially the world (we like to think we have relatively low ambitions)! Each of us in the team has taken the lead on certain thematic areas and have just finalised the plans for the next 9 weeks. Told you this was going to be exciting! 

So far we have visited and worked with all the centres and have set up the initial stages of the research investigation.  From this experience alone, we have already learned a few valuable lessons:
The importance of patience and flexibility. The problem with setting up a 10-week plan is that it relies on other people keeping to your schedule. Unfortunately, when you have young people on school holidays, educators preparing for their return, and centre staff generally worked to the bone, it can be challenging asking these busy people to set some time aside for you in advance. ‘Bolivian Mean Time’ (©Ross Robinson) considers conventional methods of measuring time as mere suggestions.  We’ve had cancellations, switcharoos, postponements and the works. However this attitude to time can work in our favour. People are more likely to have time for you now than in, say, a week. As someone who is a somewhat of a stickler for punctuality and planning, I am finding it difficult to take advantage of this level of flexibility. I’m hoping to earn 20+ ‘tranquillo’ points by the end of this week… or not, whatever man. 

Everyone has something valuable to say. There have been plenty of times where we are just having a conversation with people who work at the centres, the children or people on the street, and they have said something that has switched on a light in our heads, or at least made us pay attention to ideas or concepts we hadn’t even thought of before. This is especially important as we are designing something with the community, for the community. Luckily we have incredible initiators of chat and gossip on our team (thanks Ste!). Language does not have to be a barrier to communication and the people who are less able on our team to speak Spanish have shown this. 

                                          (Ross's view of La Paz on his commute to the office)

The process of acclimatising to La Paz and lifestyle is something to take seriously. La Paz is hilly steep mountainous. On top of that, we currently reside 3’100m – 4058m above sea level. On top of that, we have to become accustomed to new foods, new drinking habits (never reach for that tap water whatever you do), and new modes of dealing with people. “But Ross”, I hear you cry,  “how does that relate to planning?”. Adjusting to a new terrain can change your ability to be able to predict your self. Random dizzy spells, feeling unwell, and general altitude sickness cannot be factored so easily into plans, diaries and schedules (much to my dismay).  The best way to deal with this is to make sure that we are taking care of ourselves; you can only do ‘good’, when you feel good. I know I’ve taken to drinking copious amounts of Maté de Coca, and staying off those street foods until we feel hardy enough. 

La Paz's coffee shops. Enough said. La Paz's array of coffee shops are the best place to get great Internet. When trying to find out more about current problems with preventable diseases, researching current projects, and trying to find novel ways of evaluating our modules, the Internet is such a useful resource. Finding good internet around the city has been a challenge, and has definitely been a part of my learning curve living here. 

We are at an exciting time in our projects where we think everything is possible and we remain positive about our rather ambitious goals. The process of planning will be central to making these goals achievable theoretically. The ability to adapt our plans on the fly will be central to making these goals a reality. 

Written by Ross Robinson
Edited by Sarah Cassidy

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your blog post, its really interesting to see how the 'dimensions' we use to assess volunteers on assessment days are put to use on placement- flexibility and adaptability (finding ways to adjust to the environment etc.) being two of the most important!

    Looking forward to the next post,

    Best wishes,

    York Team