Monday, August 24, 2015

Danielle's blog

It always seems to be when you just feel you're getting in to the swing of things that you have to leave. I remember at the start of this cohort I thought I was never going to get anything right. I was nervous about travelling to work on my own in case I got lost and went missing for ever. I burnt the bread during my first session in Alpacoma and grieved for at least two days and was paranoid for at least the next two weeks of bread making. Everything seemed big and daunting because you were given quite a lot of responsibility from the word go. Now, looking back on the last eight weeks, I'm glad I was thrown in to the deep end without arm bands. It's taught me to be less scared about what could go wrong and just go with the flow, which I think is quite a Bolivian state of mind. This week I made the bread in Alpacoma all by myself: adding the ingredients, kneading and using my own opinion as to whether the bread was ready to rise. When we lifted the plastic sheet off the bread I got a pat on the back and a 'muy bien' from the cook, not to blow my own trumpet. The moral of this profound story is that if you stick at something, no matter how disastrous the beginning, you'll learn and grow from it.
One of the main targets in our team is to deliver sessions to children in a school called Las Lomas. Our team leaders told us at the beginning of the cohort that by the end of our time in Bolivia we would have grown in to excellent facilitators and feel comfortable leading a class of children.  The first few weeks were sticky to say the least. For example classes got cancelled, my team created a lesson for young children from five to eight year olds which changed within a few hours of the lesson to fourteen to eighteen year olds. Panic stations! Buckle down the hatches! Scream! All thoughts I had in the first few weeks when I couldn't multi task three things at a time and I felt nervous to change or adapt my plans. However, the fantastic thing about our sessions was we had the freedom to do what we wanted, within reason. We covered three main topics: nutrition, child protection and exercise. As there is no internet in the classroom and your materials consist mainly of coloured paper, cello-tape and glue you have to be adaptable and able to change your plans. Therefore within a few weeks of facilitating lessons you're a professional when it comes to using your imagination and having to make last minute adjustments. For me the sessions were my favourite part of my job as I think that's where we made the most difference. I was always nervous at the beginning. I speak very basic Spanish, so I was scared that I wouldn't be able to control the class and I worried that the kids might find our lesson boring. We had two English speakers and one Spanish speaker in our team so we always had one person there to have help out with translation and as far as the boring bit went the kids always got involved in the class. For example this week we decided we were going to do a round up lesson of all the things we had covered already. We created a quiz, got the kids to do group presentations on the benefits of different types of fruit and brought in food to make a fruit salad. The children were really enthusiastic when it came to the presentations and I was surprised at how much information they told us, the quiz was fantastic fun and the fruit salad went down a treat. Overall the kids were fantastic to work with and I'm quite sad to be leaving them.  

The other part of our job role in EMPO is to help out at community points, which are pop up schools in different parts of La Paz. We help out in a football pitch near El Alto on a Thursday afternoon for an hour and a half. Usually we play games with the kids, make sure they don't get up to any mischief and assist the educators with anything they need. We've made origami, watched Frozen (with live singing provided by me) and played jenga with the kids, which for future volunteers, they absolutely love. Last week the educators left us to look after the kids by ourselves and we played What's the Time Mr Wolf and taught everyone the hocky cocky. We all laughed loads and had a great time. You really connect with the kids at the community points and they will happily listen to your clumsy spanish and practice with you.
Working with kids has been the highlight of my experience in Bolivia. It's a massive challenge as they keep you on your toes and by the end of a session or community point you'll be exhausted. It's worth the effort though as I think I've learnt so much about myself and Bolivia has taught me lessons I'll be bringing back to the UK.

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