Thursday, May 21, 2015

Daniela's ICS experience

I can’t believe we have less than 3 weeks left, it feels like it was just yesterday that I was boarding my first of 3 flights, destination La Paz. I’m sure everyone will agree when I say we hadn’t a clue what was waiting for us on the other side of the world, all I knew was that I was on team Zebras, which is correctly known as ‘Ciudadanos del Mundo’ – citizens of the world. On arrival to La Paz we were taken back to the office to meet the host families and for some refreshments of coca tea and crackers – extremely popular snacks here in Bolivia. You will quickly find yourself replacing the British brew for coca tea almost instantly, firstly because it’s not easy to find some Yorkshire tea and if you do it’s extortionate, but mainly because you are suffocating from altitude sickness and therefore have no choice. The next day we met our team leaders Elo and Eugenia, our cooperantes Judith and Daniela and the rest of our team… Hence the story of Cohort 12 begins…

The team and some of our zebras

First a bit about our team. Our team leader Elo is always fighting our corner so that we can design our own murals, and just generally fulfil what we want to achieve in this project, she’s also fun and laid back but in a no messing about sort of way. Eugenia has left us now, but she taught us so much in such a short space of time, I hope she is having an amazing time in her next adventure. Judith, I mean the best way to describe her is crazy but of course in all the best ways possible, she’s a great support at workshops especially when the crowd is being difficult. Dani, not me the coorporante, I’m forever turning round when people call her name! She always seems calm and collected, also loves laughing at me when I speak in Colombian Spanish which is sometimes different to Bolivian Spanish, but I’ll let her off because she is also my La Paz tour guide. Jack, the man of mystery, also the man that didn’t make it to his own birthday meal. We love Jack he brings excellent creative skills to the team, and can make us all laugh without even saying a word. Kate, don’t you dare deny this girl the right to design a mural! And for all the right reasons, despite being a math graduate she’s a girl of many mural designing talents. She’s also the stress head, which is necessary in a team, we can’t all be chilled out! She makes the day go by faster with her happy can-do attitude. Madlen, the ray of sunshine, I’m yet to see this girl upset or without a smile on her face, always brightening up the room with her smile. Rowan, the father of the group, that may possibly be merely my own view but he most definitely has the alpha-male aura, you can sit and initiate a conversation about anything, and Rowan will always have a reply. Hannah, also a bright smile, and calm, so very calm. Very necessary to counter-act my hyper-active persona. And last but not least Kyran, or Niqua as we call him, the Spanish boy whom will forever (or at least till the end of this cohort) spend his life correcting my Spanish, though I am actually grateful because despite being fluent I’ve learnt a few more words.
As my fellow team-mates have already written in the previous blog entries, our project has a focus on noise pollution. Noise pollution was never something I really paid attention to or noticed, but ever since starting this project, I notice it everywhere. Being a London girl I’m confronted with London traffic on a daily basis, yet I’d never noticed the effects of noise. There’s no doubt that La Paz is significantly noisier, but I was so surprised that I’d just noticed it here for the first time. Here drivers honk for fun, and I notice the noise rather intensely every day now. I rarely walk around with headphones here, mainly because I feel rude, there’s always someone on my daily route to work that wants to say good morning or sometimes even chat – quite different to London. I live south of the city so I have the pleasure of getting the Teleferico to work, the world’s highest cable car. Believe me it’s a huge improvement to being stuck under someone’s sweaty armpit on the Victoria line every morning rush hour, the cons of being small.

The view from the world's highest cable car

This cohort we’ve been working hard to polish off the noise pollution modules which were started by previous cohorts. Last week we started workshops at the school Naciones Unidas Piloto, teaching teachers the noise pollution youth module so that they could incorporate them into their curriculum. It was a strange experience teaching teachers! But they seemed excited to receive all the materials we provided and made photo copies of the module to teach their classes. The team were back on Monday carrying out workshops with the school vendors and parents to raise awareness and to give them an insight on the new things the children will be learning. This Friday we will be going back as part of our action Friday to paint a mural in front of the school in order to raise noise-pollution awareness around the school area. We’re excited for our fellow volunteers to join us in our project’s work for a day, a few of the zebra’s we’ve been working with will also be coming along to support which will be exciting!

Workshop with the teachers as the School

We recently visited the Hospital de Clinicas, one of the largest in La Paz, where we will be carrying out research and helping work with the infrastructure, starting with the ears, nose and throat department. It was eye opening to see the contrast with the Bolivian health system and the UK. The director was explaining how their lack of technology is worrying, they lack various basic equipment for treating cancer and even lack the technology to carry out CT scans. In Bolivia health care is not free, although some departments which are wealthier in terms of surplus, offer free health care. However private healthcare is more commonplace, the public hospitals offer lower prices than the private ones, but charge nonetheless. Due to this doctors and medical staff working in the public sector are often faced with not just lower pay, but longer hours, of which over-time is not usually paid. This leads to a decline in medical staff wanting to continue in the public hospitals. There are usually 30 patients to 1 nurse, where there should really only be around 5. Our visit was extremely interesting and we are all excited to begin workshops with the staff at the Hospital de Clinicas. I personally left the hospital wanting to just build them a new one and solve all their problems, I think that was the collective thought throughout our team. It was frustrating knowing that we would only be focusing on such a small fraction of what seemed like such a big problem. But knowing that we will be able to make even the smallest amount of difference is the most rewarding feeling.

Hospital de Clínicas

I know the work we’re doing isn’t changing the world; but that mentality never helped any change. What we’re doing is helping the development of a wider change, and even if one day we can change a frown to a smile that’s enough to make me content.  It’s been an extremely rewarding experience working with the Ciudadanos del Mundo team, working with the zebras of La Paz, the children from the Alalay home, the teachers and the Hospital. I’m sad it’s coming to an end!  Bolivia, you’ve been beautiful, and International Service Bolivia, you’ve been an absolute pleasure. Now time to make the most out of the short time we have left.

Yoga with the children at Alalay

Teaching the children at Alalay about human rights

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