Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Liam Rickard’s 4th week in Bolivia with International Service (ICS Cohort 11 Childfund & Youth Empowerment Group)


Overview of ICS Bolivia structure:

There are 24 short-term British volunteers (one who is Polish actually) split into four teams who work with different project partners: Childhood & Youth Empowerment (with Childfund); Volunteer for Inclusion (with Best Buddies), Urban Agriculture (with Focapaci) and the project formerly known as Zebras for a Silent La Paz (although they’re no longer working with the government’s zebras scheme as far as I know).

Each team has two team-leaders, one “Bolivian” and one “British”… I use “” because the team leaders are actually from Spain, Italy, El Salvador, Peru, Bolivia and the UK but are all based in the UK or Bolivia. Each team also has two long-term local volunteers, who are mostly from La Paz, who are students around our age. They are called “coperantes” and they play leading roles in the projects. Since the start of this cohort, more Bolivian volunteers have joined the ICS programme, including my host-cousin who lives in my district, Bolognia.


Overview of the “Childhood & Youth Empowerment” group’s work

The team I’m in is working in three after-school education centres, funded and part-managed by the Bolivia contingent of the United States based charity, Childfund. After school, many children in La Paz have nowhere to go, and some are locked in their homes for safety. These centres provide a safe learning environment where the children can go after school for further classes, games and fun, educational activities. Some centres even provide day care for pre-school children.

The task of this cohort is to design learning modules for each centre addressing areas specified by the centre. These are: Citizen Security, Leadership & Empowerment, and Nutrition & Sport (this is the one I’m doing with Las Lomas centre). As well as delivering the classes, we should try and package & present them in a way that can be reused easily in the future. We’ve also been asked to do this for the modules that previous cohorts have designed. It’s not sustainable if it can only be delivered once by one set of individuals.


My group´s work so far (Las Lomas Centre–Nutrition & Sport)

I’m working with two young women, one Scottish and one Bolivian, and they both live very near me in our neighbourhood, Bolognia, in the Zona Sur of La Paz. Since we started, another Bolognia girl has joined our team, my host family’s cousin. She’s a vegetarian, which is a little tricky here in La Paz (most people seem to include meat/chicken in every meal, but there are some vegetarian restaurants, and I assume that, like in the UK, food consciousness is growing). It´s a good team and we seem to be quite productive (especially the long-term Bolivian volunteer who is a powerhouse – she studies for her University degree every evening on top of her ICS work).

We’ve written a script about a sweet potato who gets bullied in school by the other potatoes for being different. But she’s helped by a friendly carrot. In episode 2 the carrot gets kidnapped by some gangster onions. This is a puppet show to teach 4 – 6 year old children about “peace culture” values and the benefits of different fruits & vegetables. We made the puppets from card, foam and other bits & bobs. We also came up with some songs, and there will be a dance which the children will perform in a final event. The theme song is currently “Me gusta la [verdura], Me gustas tu” – a new fruit & vegetable version of the famous Manu Chao song. We are focusing on fruit & veg because they are the foods most lacking in people’s diets.

The final event will be a sports day, “The Hungry Games,” which the 8-12 year old group will help plan. The 15-18 year olds will be in charge of preparing healthy snacks and smoothies. The lessons also include games, talking about sports people, drawing activities, planting vegetables, meditation & stretches, and of course practicing sports for the sports day.

We were supposed to deliver our first class in Las Lomas on Monday afternoon but there were only two children so the centre said there was no point giving the class. It was the first day back at school so families were only just enlisting, and there will be more next week. They told us to return the following day and deliver a special two our session. The very productive Bolivian girl in our team planned the session and we arrived on Tuesday afternoon to deliver it, but again there were not enough children – only four and they all had other things to do. So we will have to cram our five sessions into four or just drop the last session. The sports day is going ahead though!

Other than the classes, the whole team finished off a mural done by the previous cohort in Las Lomas on the Monday morning. On Wendesday I went with some of our group to the Avance centre in Chasquipampa (even further out than Bolognia) to draw a mural about citizen security on an inside wall of the centre. I had help from a fellow artist who we drafted from the Urban Agriculture group. He also lives in, guess where: Bolognia! He stays with the other Welshman and the mother of my host-father, in the same complex as our host-cousin who I mentioned before. She helped with the drawing too, and so did a little girl from the centre.

On our Action Friday, coming tomorrow as I write this, volunteers from all four project groups, and lots of local kids, will attempt to paint my wall sketches. The other artist(s) and I do our best to ensure it turns out well, and I’ll try not to be too much of a perfectionist! It´ll be good fun.

And that’s all from me for now. You can read more from me on my personal blog on “worldwidewelshman.co.uk” if you’re interested, and check out this page next week for an entry from one of my teammates! Peace & love from ICS Bolivia J

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