Brian Slusarz´ Volunteer Testimony
After having spent two and a half years working in Corporate America, I decided I wanted a change, and requested a six month leave of absence from my job to do a bit of traveling. I chose Volunteer Bolivia because I didn’t just want to backpack; I wanted to learn a language, volunteer and live with a local family. I began my time in Bolivia with two weeks of Spanish courses. The classes were one on one and the teachers were excellent so I quickly refreshed my skills.
Then I started my volunteer assignment with a prisoner human rights group. As a six foot blond haired American, walking into a Bolivian prison surrounded by inmates who were NOT behind bars was a very interesting experience, and much different from what I was used to, making spreadsheets in an air-conditioned office. But by the end of my time in Bolivia, visiting prisons on my own became part of my daily existence.
I quickly became friends with many of the inmates and worked hard to help them start up small businesses so they could earn a living. I felt so inspired by the work I was doing, I resigned from my comfy consulting job in the States to stay on as a salaried employee of my NGO for another three months. Luckily, I was able to raise enough money to start up a project in a small rural Bolivian prison, where we were able to improve prison infrastructure, start up a micro enterprise and build a prison library. One of the prisoners even asked me to serve as Godfather to his young daughter!
Still, by far, the best part of my time in Bolivia was with my Bolivian family, friends and the other volunteers. My family had six brothers and sisters who quickly became my best friends. They owned a small grocery store where we ate meals and I spent much of my time: cooking, helping out around the store or just chatting for long hours into the night. We told jokes, laughed often and really formed an amazing bond that, I have no doubt, will last for the rest of my life.
I feel that coming to Bolivia with Volunteer Bolivia was the single best decision of my life. Not only was it the most rewarding personal and cultural experience of my life, it definitely played a huge role in landing me a job in the nonprofit sector upon my return to the US and in getting me accepted into my dream graduate school, where I will be studying international affairs.
I could not have been happier with my Volunteer Bolivia experience and would recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone considering the program.