I loved my time in Okinawa because it gave me a whole different perspective on Bolivia. At the orphanage, I learned about “orphanage culture”, in Okinawa, I learned about “Bolivian culture”. And by the time I got to Okinawa, I had learned to “go with the flow” as far as time frames and constant changes. That alone made things much more enjoyable.
Hometown: Allen, Michigan
Education/Work: Master’s level social worker. Currently (January 2004), I work in a program for pregnant women and women with children who are at risk.
Other volunteer sites:
I served in Bolivia from summer of 1999 to summer of 2000. I completed a 6 week course at the Maryknoll language institute in Cochabamba prior to arriving in Santa Cruz. That was a wonderful experience, not only for the language but also for the people I met and friendships I developed. It was also incredible to live with a Bolivian family and be included in their everyday activities for several weeks.
When I first came to Santa Cruz, I worked at Mano Amiga for the first 6 months. The kids were great and I continue to follow a couple of them. It was very tiring work due to the hours that you put in every day, however, it was also very rewarding to know that you were giving these kids something that they weren’t able to get from their families… to let them know they were loved and wanted and give and receive hugs and kisses everyday. I remember sitting outside, looking at the stars and talking to one little boy about how much God loved him. I was also impressed to see how hard the orphanage tried to provide activities and experiences for the kids on a very limited budget.
Time in Okinawa: For the second half of my time in Bolivia I was in Okinawa. I loved my time in Okinawa because it gave me a whole different perspective on Bolivia. At the orphanage, I learned about "orphanage culture", in Okinawa, I learned about "Bolivian culture". And by the time I got to Okinawa, I had learned to "go with the flow" as far as time frames and constant changes. That alone made things much more enjoyable.
Fellow Volunteers/Sors: Paula Holtman, Courtney Carpenter, Marina Large, Sor Geraldina, Sor Carmen, Sor Lucia, Sor Lucila, Sor Anabel
Teaching: I taught English, Computer, and one Natural Science class. Although the Natural Science Class was the bane of my existence because I knew nothing about it. It was also a good experience to have those 8th graders twice a week for that and then once a week for English. We came to know each other really well.Additional Comments: The two biggest things I learned in Bolivia were the grace of God and that we are our brother’s keeper. Witnessing the trials in the lives of the people of Bolivia as well as their reactions to them was difficult. But then I finally came to the realization that God loves us all and He provided a way through those trials. That knowledge helped me understand and love the people as well as my work there. I also truly believe that we all have a responsibility to help those that are less fortunate than ourselves. We don’t truly understand the level of disparity until we experience something different from our own lives. Once we understand, we all have the responsibility to make a positive contribution – and EVERYONE is able.