Mike Cripps, Clare Wearden, Tom 8, Eli 6, and Dominic 18 months
from the UK
In August 2003 we arrived in Cochabamba, exhausted from a 28 hour journey from the UK and very apprehensive about what we had let ourselves in for!
Lee and Javier of Volunteer Bolivia where there to meet us and whisked us off to the flat that they had arranged for our first month.
The next day, armed with a rough map of the city we made our way to the Volunteer Bolivia offices to plan the next step.
The first month was a whirlwind of visa applications, house hunting, finances, looking for schools for the kids and sorting out Mike’s Spanish lessons and Clare’s volunteer placement helped at every stage by Lee and Javier.
Once we were settled in our placements – Mike at a day centre for children of the city’s prison inmates and Clare with a local NGO working on a rehabilitation project for ex interns of the women’s prison – we were able to relax a bit and enjoy the various trips and other activities organized by Volunteer Bolivia.
When we left our first placements we quickly found work with a water NGO installing drinking water systems and latrines in some of the poorest communities in Bolivia. We were both delighted with what we were doing. Mike was out in the communities calculating water volumes and generally over seeing the progress of the work. Clare worked on evaluations, translations, and administration.
We were always aware of the support from Volunteer Bolivia and became very friendly with all of the staff and the teachers.
We left Bolivia in September 2004 having spent a wonderful year together. We have made friends for life, we all speak Spanish and the older children are determined to go back to Bolivia to backpack with their friends when they are older.
We have experienced a completely different way of life and will never forget what Bolivia has taught us.
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