Friday, May 29, 2015

Dan's blog

Sadly, things are approaching an end for cohort 12 in La Paz. With that in mind, thought is being given tying up loose ends and bringing things to a neat conclusion. However, even though our time here is drawing to a close there is still much to be done. Work is continuing in the Avance Communitario centre I´m based in with my fellow volunteer, Lauren, along with with support from our in country team of Adri and Soledad. In addition to this the Empoderando (Childfund) team had our Guided Learning to complete. 

Avance Communitario is a children´s centre in Chasquipampa, a region on the very outskirts of La Paz. Lauren and I work with two vibrant groups of young children, in the age range of 6-14, and over our time there I´ve grown fond of so many of them. I´d like to think they´d say as much about us. Our overarching theme for everything we do there has been ´Citizen Security´. This has included work on child trafficking, the importance of respecting our environment, and most recently the identification and prevention of alcoholism and alcohol related problems. These are all very real problems in Chasquipampa and I sincerely hope that our work there will have had some benefit to these childrens´ lives and will continue to do so.
In our first sessions with the groups we had them complete a diagnostic tool which evaluated their current understanding and thoughts on the issues that had been raised as needing covering. Despite their age it became apparent that many of the children encounter problems caused by alcohol if not daily then regularly. Our session was split into three sections, the first of which was watching videos catered to children educating them about the dangers and side-effects of alcohol. Following this we had each child write a letter to somebody, real or imaginary, warning the recipient of the risks involved with alcohol abuse or pleading them to stop drinking as it was affecting them negatively. 

With the use of glasses made from the end of plastic bottles, which seriously blurred your vision and emulated drunkenness surprisingly well, for the last activity the children were split into teams and competed to complete a set of challenges in the fastest time. So that they didn´t have it too easy they were also spun around a number of times, given a pot of water which wasn´t allowed to be spilt before the obstacle course, and made to wear bulky gloves before the writing challenge. It was a lot of fun for all involved and not in the least for us as children stumbling due to dizziness and poor sight is very funny, rightly or wrongly. Notwithstanding, through the enjoyment it was clear that the message of the difficulty of simple tasks is increased tenfold while drunk. All in all, I feel this was one of our best sessions. 

As I mentioned above, it was the turn of the Childfund group to deliver our Guided Learning (GL). GL is a presentation delivered on Friday mornings by one of the four groups here at IS – Bolivia. Our topic was ´The awareness of environmentalism in the globalised world´. We were the last group to present a GL and having grown tired of the didactic manner in which others had been delivered in we decided to revolutionise the format; our information would be presented by means of a spoof Blue Peter programme. I went with Fiona, a Childfund team member and co-film star/director for the day, to create a tongue-in-cheek opening for the show; a mini-documentary about public transport in La Paz while simultaneously ´racing´ to the office and bursting onto set at its end. However our tongues weren´t so firmly in our (respective) cheeks that we couldn´t squash in some fun facts on the way. Others had similarly silly ways of presenting their information and the show was a great success. Or so I´m told, as unfortunately I fell quite ill on Thursday night to a Shigella infection. Street salad here may as well come with a hospital admission slip. I´m here to tell the tale in blog form so all is well and a lesson has been learnt. 

I apologise for the cliché but the past two months really have flown by. Living in La Paz and working in La Paz has been an incredible experience that will always remember fondly. With just over a week remaining now I´m certain that there is a palpable air in the office that we are almost done here. However I´ve not fully recovered yet so that could just be coming from my stomach. 

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