Heather Tyrer´s Volunteer Testimony
I spent three short months volunteering with Volunteer Bolivia and would not have changed a minute of it. It was at times frustrating, scary and difficult, but also a life-changing, fulfilling and amazing. I had the benefit of a couple of years of school Spanish before I went out, so I had just one week of intensive classes at VB. This helped as we just went over most of the grammar that I had already covered and then spent a lot of time talking about Bolivian culture.
Living with a family also helped my Spanish immensely and I felt immediately like one of their daughters. They were good friends from the beginning of my time and I was looked after very well, whilst still having a lot of independence. The Volunteer Bolivia centre, with its café bar and cultural talks was a meeting place for all the volunteers and I met some wonderful people from all over the world who were doing the same as me – giving something of themselves to a country which needs so much.
My placement was in a day centre for prisoners’ children from the Cochabamba prisons and from the very start I felt welcomed and needed. There I met some inspiring members of staff who put so much of their heart into caring for these children who maybe have no-one else to love them. Nothing about the work itself was particularly hard but at times it was emotionally taxing, especially sending a group of two year olds back into the prison at the end of the day. Despite all this, I learnt a lot through the experience and am more aware now of the problems faced daily by many people in South America. The centre has very limited funding so they rely heavily on the work of volunteers, so any time people give is extremely valuable to them. Since returning to Britain I have kept in touch with the staff I worked with and am trying to support them as much as possible. Volunteering through Volunteer Bolivia has changed my life and is an experience I will never forget.
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