Thursday, November 19, 2015

International Development by Christina Fletcher.


It is very easy to gain unrealistic and almost naive ideas when working in international development. Although I didn't come to Bolivia with expectations of changing the world I did expect to see a tangible difference with the projects I was working in and I was therefore rather disappointed and frustrated when at the start this didn't appear to be happening. Working at two children's centres that are situated in very impoverished areas outside of central La Paz four days of the week for the past two months has been incredibly enjoyable since the first day and although it has always been rewarding I expected to see an obvious change because of our work and I couldn't help but feel a little frustrated in my first few weeks here. However, 8 weeks in and I've begun to see things differently. At the start I felt frustrated, overwhelmed and under-qualified at the prospect of teaching a class of twenty noisy 7 years olds about human rights with my limited Spanish and I couldn't help but question my usefulness here. These feeling were intensified when we began work at the centres of Las Lomas and Alpacoma which are both situated in areas with a high crime rate where the children get into drugs and alcohol quite young. The lack of opportunities for so many of these children is heartbreaking and the idea of teaching lessons on nutrition, health and human rights didn't seem to be a priority when some of these children have to start work at as young as 8 in the local brick factories to contribute to their families income. However, after spending 8 weeks teaching these sessions I have begun to see the true purpose of our projects and I have seen that a difference can be made, just in a different way than I expected.  Teaching these children sessions on human rights, nutrition and health may not be positively impacting Bolivia on a large scale, but it does impact positively on the kids we teach which will, in years to come, have a positive and large impact in Bolivia. This is not to say all the sessions have been successful. No matter how well planned our workshops are things do not always go to plan. We might turn up to a classroom with a session that we took 3 hours to plan and expect 20 children but there are only 4 there and we cannot deliver the session because they have too much homework that needs to be completed first. Instead of finding this frustrating we've learned to be adaptable in these situations. 

One thing I've really started to realise is that our main goal is to help these centres. Although that sounds incredibly obvious it is so easy to be frustrated in these situations and see it as a waste of your time. Instead everything we do should be with the aim of helping the teachers and children as much as possible; if they need help with their homework that is the priority not the wasted session. Although teaching a session on human rights with 8 year olds may not seem to be making a huge impact in terms of development in the country - in just a few weeks I have seen the difference it has made in the centres. This may only be on a small scale but it is still incredibly important. The constant lack of obvious improvements seems to be one of the biggest problems in international development. There is not an immediate result and it can seem like no difference is being made but in development there is no right answer or right way and the results can take a very long time to become apparent. Every country, city and person is different and therefore different approaches need to be taken. This means sometimes things don't work and there are flaws in our projects but what I have enjoyed over the course of the past two months is learning from the aspects that don't work to develop the sessions so they are successful. Although international development will forever be criticised and sometimes rightly so, I can honestly say my opinion on the effectiveness of these projects has changed. We all know you cannot change the world over night but to make even the smallest change is so difficult. Projects in international development will never be perfect but the differences that are made on a smaller scale, add up to positively impact the country on a much larger scale.

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