Monday, April 14, 2014

International Service - Bolivia welcomes new ICS volunteers from the UK to the ChildFund team

After 10 months of hard work and dedication, former Team Leader Sarah Cassidy has now left International Service- Bolivia, and I, Kelly-Marie Roberts, have the exciting challenge of taking on the role of Team Leader for the ChildFund project!

Our project partner, ChildFund, is a non-profit NGO, which focusses on empowering children, particularly regarding their rights to health, education, and social inclusion. I will be coordinating the ChildFund projects over the next 7 months, leading two new groups of volunteers from the UK in projects on Human Rights, violence, gender equality, sexual health, and preventable diseases. Along with local volunteers, Inti and Angie, we have just welcomed Jade, Ana, Eilidh, and Adam to the team; together we hope to have a positive impact in the communities we will be working in.

The new ChildFund team Angie, Eilidh, Inti, Kelly, Jade, Adam, Ana (and Alan from the International Service office at the back!)

Over the next several months, we will continue to work in children’s centres in and around La Paz, as well as establishing a more regular presence at children’s centres with one of our less well-established local partners, Jilanataqui. Through our continued presence at the local centres, we will maintain and strengthen our existing relationships with the local communities. The centres we work in are varied in location, size, and feel, yet they all share a need for support. Bolivia is a vibrant country, experiencing rapid economic and political progress, yet it is still recognised as the poorest country in Latin America and many children and families in La Paz struggle with poverty and related social issues, such as violence, gender inequality, social exclusion, lack of education and employment opportunities, and poor health.

Tasked by ChildFund over the past year to develop educational modules on Sexual Health, Human Rights, and Preventable Diseases, the new UK volunteers will be responsible for facilitating workshops on these themes in children’s centres and also developing a module on Oral Hygiene. Poor oral hygiene is prevalent in Bolivia; many children and adolescents in Bolivia have blackened or missing teeth and much of this is preventable through good nutrition and good oral hygiene. Having identified the need, ChildFund Bolivia has tasked our ICS team at International Service – Bolivia to develop pedagogical activities to help tackle this problem.

In addition to this, the UK volunteers provide much needed extra hands and eyes, which relieve some of the burden for the dedicated educators at the centres, who are often overstretched looking after and educating 50 children or teenagers at a time. With our team’s hands, eyes, energy, ideas, time, and dedication, we aim to deliver many fun activities in our local communities, including painting murals on human rights, talent shows with local children, and perhaps even putting on an art exhibition of photography produced by some of the teenage girls we work with.

The new UK volunteers getting to know La Paz.

Whatever exciting work we do over the next few months, it is always done in collaboration with the local partners and communities. Throughout all of our activities, however small or ambitious, we always aim to enrich the lives of the children we work with. For some of the children we work with, this means playing games and having fun – for many young children who already work jobs to help support their families, sometimes the time at the children’s centre is the only real time they get to be children. For other children, it is through developing their self-esteem through leadership and gender equality workshops, encouraging their dreams and developing their knowledge of what opportunities and services may be available to them.

As new Team Leader of the ChildFund project, I am excited to work with our committed and energetic local volunteers, Inti and Angie, and our new UK volunteers, Jade, Ana, Eilidh, and Adam. Sarah and her teams have developed the ChildFund projects in La Paz considerably and I am confident that with a continued level of commitment and collaboration between local partners and our new teams, that we too will be able to make a positive and lasting impact in the communities we work with.

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