Friday, August 28, 2015

Vince's final blog

Reflecting on this experience it is easy to see how different I am to the person that arrived in the country 6 months ago. 

Prior to arriving in Bolivia I was apprehensive about the work that I would be doing and the responsibility that I would have. Returning now, however, I feel surer of myself than I ever have and many of my ambitions have been clarified. Through this experience I have learned a great deal, not only about development work in general, but also about the potential of volunteers to carry out incredible work and how much a short 3 (or 6) months can change someone’s perspective and abilities. 

An interesting thing, throughout this last cohort especially, is that I have often been described as work orientated, focused and tough (although not exclusively). This is funny because (and this might shock some of previous volunteers) I have rarely been described as these things before. More often than not it’s been “he has the potential but doesn’t apply himself” or “he’ll get there” or “if he stopped messing around so much he could do a lot”. 

Something that I have learned from this is that when I am put into a position where the development and organisation of 13 volunteers as well as the overall success of a project is on me, I have it in me to step up and demand the best from myself and others. I have come to understand that sometimes in order for a group of people to see what they are capable of they have to be put into tough situations and be pushed and supported to overcome them. 

As a team we have dealt with illness, language barriers and tight schedules all whilst dealing with a heavy and diverse workload. However, Kate, Joey, Rich, Danielle, Mike, Paola, Cris, Ellie, Shirley, Enya, Laura, Suzana and Dama:

We are so lucky to have had a team that has not only been dedicated to the work that we have carried out but also tough enough to rise to all the challenges that we have thrown your way. We are so proud of how much we have seen you develop as people as well as the work that you have done.  Whether it has been seeing a previously anxious volunteer able to express themselves in front of a group, seeing our working groups plan and deliver outstanding sessions or seeing volunteers gain and perfect new and unexpected skills this job has paid in much more than money. All whilst having an amazing impact on the people that we work.  

We began this cohort with not only our most experienced volunteers being taken away from us but also a much larger team. In addition to this we were also told that some of our volunteers would not be able to communicate with each other due to not speaking the same language. These were challenges that when we initially signed up were simply not expecting, but can confidently say that were overcome. This brings me onto a very important part of our success as a project:  


It’s hard to describe what it’s been like working with Ali, my co-team leader, without diminishing the sort of relationship that we have developed. From two people nervous and inexperienced in dealing with anything like what we were going to face we have truly emerged as leaders. Ali has always shown so much respect, dedication and most importantly, organisation and I’m positive that, should it be by chance or due to a premonition felt by the people that hired us that we ended up working together, the development of this project and people across both cohorts we have managed would not have been as successful as it has been without having worked with Ali. I will miss overcoming challenges together, planning, strategizing, and joking about the various antics of the volunteers at the end of the day. 

Ali, Above all I will miss your friendship, which is something that I have come to value more than your professional ability, which is definitely saying something.  

In summary, as one our recent volunteers put it: 
‘This is going to be one of the most frustrating and trying periods of your life, enjoy every second of it.’ 
I can honestly say I have, sometimes with help of the advice of another volunteer for when I have found myself in a tough position.
"Drink some coffee, put on some gangsta rap and handle it." 
Volunteers from both cohorts, I can say that we have handled it.

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