Friday, 21 December 2012

Muchisimas gracias a todos!

The last few weeks of volunteering in Bolivia flew by. I don't think I had accepted the fact that I would have to leave the beautiful green house set deep in the Valley of the Moon! Our schedule was packed full of activities and events, all of which were very special and a perfect conclusion to the last 3 months.

My English students performing a tour of the zoo in English was a great success and was the culmination of many weeks of hard work. It showed me the importance of the relationships I had formed, in order to link different community projects, to support community development and ecotourism. We organised a graduation ceremony and presented all student s with certificates to celebrate their achievements. After a rendition of "Hello, Goodbye" by the Beatles and some delicious food brought along by the students, Rolando Mendoza made a lovely speech, thanking us for our work. Our student Daniel, also said some beautiful words of thanks to us, in English, on behalf of all of the other students which was very moving.
Graduation day!
To celebrate the work of Up Close Bolivia over the past year, the Mendozas hosted a community event at their house which many members of the community attended. It was heart warming to see the house filled with so many new friends  and familiar faces, all of whom we had worked closely alongside, formed friendships and shared experiences with during our time working for Up Close Bolivia. It really highlighted the inclusive nature of the work of Up Close Bolivia in the community, the meaning of "reciprocidad" (reciprocity) and it felt like we were one huge family. I was really touched by the heartfelt goodbyes and thoughtful gifts from my English students and felt extremely sad to be leaving!
Students from the English Tourism classes

Presenting certificates to community members

A highlight in the calendar for the children's centre is Christmas day which we were lucky enough to be part of. Despite the torrential rain, excitement was running high for everyone! The day involved certificates being presented to the children and Tias for all of their hard work, traditional dances being performed by Up Close volunteers and Tias, a traditional Apthapi (picnic lunch) prepared by all of the children's families and the Tias, and a special visit from Papa Noel (Santa Claus!).
The Tias in traditional dress

Some of the children performing a song
Papa Noel giving out presents!
We finished off the day packed into one of the children's classrooms, sharing a delicious communal meal which we devoured with our fingers, prepared by the Tias for le Club de Madres (Mother's club). In traditional Bolivian birthday style, Emma threw one of the large, decadent cream-covered cakes in to Rolando's face causing much amusement! We all received badges and gifts from the family accompanied by some lovely words of thanks.

I truly fell in love with the scenery, traditions, colour, vibrancy and values of Bolivia and all of the people I met. I have so many memories and friends that will stay in my heart forever. I would like to thank International Service and all of the people who supported me in my fundraising, in order to make taking part in the International Citizen Service scheme possible. Also a huge thanks to Up Close Bolivia and the community of Mallasa for this incredible experience and to Choice Healthcare Solutions for supporting me. For now it's "Hasta luego Bolivia" (see you later)...until the next time!

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