Throughout our experience thus far with Amizade, we have come to realize that the scrutiny of service is an essential part of the program. We all believe that providing service to the community which we live will not only benefit the community, but is also a learning experience about ourselves. We have discovered the value in analyzing our service. Through reflection we have all been able to see our services through a different perspective and at different degrees. By being critical of what we are doing at our volunteer placements, we are ensuring that we are not having a negative impact. By making positive strides and building relationships we are setting the stage for future volunteers. Scrutiny of our services allows us to see our work in a different light making us realize that we will have a bigger connection with the community than your typical “vacation do-gooders”.

Examining our intentions, we think that even someone with good intentions can have negative affects and someone who you consider having bad intentions can have a positive effect on a community.  Therefore the impact of our service is more important than the initial intentions.

We know that by being here we are not necessarily going to move mountains, but we believe that making slight differences can make just as big an impact on our NGO’s, which benefits the community at large. Showing support of our placements and bringing visions of our NGO’s back to the United States has great value. Anyone who serves in a community should value the knowledge they gain as well as the experience. Ultimately we hope that our service is valued by those we work with and affected.

We all came here with our initial intentions, but in the end we will measure the value of our services by the impacts we make at our NGO’s and in the community.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Salam kutoka Tanzania (greetings from Tanzania)

Kayanga is definitely starting to feel like home and all of our service placements have successfully fallen into place. We have started to form relationships at MAVUNO, WOMEDA and Aprofi, and each day we arrive feeling more comfortable. Water tanks are being built with the help of Carly’s hard work and determination to help local families. Isabel is assisting teachers at Aprofi to help children learn fundamentals to help them succeed in Primary School. Sarah is spending her time working with social aids to ensure the rights of women, children, and men that are often overlooked in Karagwe.

We believe that it is essential to form positive relationships with the people we interact with everyday. In doing so, we are able to gain a better understanding of not only ourselves, but the environment we are working and living in. All of our placements have revealed the needs that exist in the Karagwe district. We recognize that the organizations we serve help the community in different ways, but personally our gains are similar. We have gained a better understanding of what it means to serve. We understand that our service may not impact the entire town or district, but if our efforts help one woman, man, child or family we have still made a contribution. We hold the mentality that all people have the ability to serve, whether in their hometown or in a foreign country.

Each night we are given the opportunity to reflect on our service. Hearing each other’s stories and experiences allows us to attain insight into the three different organizations. Instead of having one placement to learn from, we are able to learn from our peers through reflection. We anticipate the changes we will see in our ideas of service, and ultimately hope take these experiences back to America and carry them with us for the rest of our lives.

Baadaye -Isabel, Carly and Sarah

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

One of the most important parts of our time here in Cochabamba is our service at the Pedacito de Cielo (Little Piece of Heaven) Orphanage.  The orphanage is part of the Fundacion Niños Con Valor which was founded in Cochabamba in 2005. The “Fundacion” has three projects; Pedacito de Cielo is a center for boys aged one to six, Corazon del Pastor (Shepherd’s Heart) is a girls’ home with children aged three to sixteen, and One Child at a Time, which helps to keep children from at-risk families with their parents.  Pedacito and Corazon were established for children with medical problems, such as HIV/AIDS, that were abandoned and/or refused care at other locations. Besides being an orphanage, the organization also offers day care for impoverished families that cannot afford other child care, family counseling, and micro-loans.  Most of these recipient families are also afflicted with HIV/AIDS.

Amizade began working with the “Fundacion” in September and October of 2010.  Amizade volunteers have helped to start a garden where the children can grow vegetables, restored some of the shelving and furniture used in the orphanage, and of course, played with and helped care for the children. The “Tias” (aunts, the female caretakers) had no problem incorporating us into the daily routine. Upon arrival, we usually help with laundry and cleaning of the facility while the children finish their naps. When they wake, we help them get dressed, and prepare them for there post nap juice. Most days, we take them to the park to play.  Then it’s time for dinner and bed time. We have also done some work in setting up and organizing the facilities “doctor’s office.”

The impact these children have had on us is more profound than any of us could have imagined. Coming from middle class families in a privileged country, we didn’t realize how something as simple as playing with a child on the monkey bars could brighten their day. The impact has been mutual. The children have someone to play with and care for them, plus the male influence in an organization dominated by women.  For us, we get the satisfaction of making a child smile, of lending our talents and skills to an organization that is truly affecting change on a community, and the pride of making a difference in what ever way we can.  What we are doing here is the definition of service; helping those that need it most, and only expecting a smile, a laugh and little self satisfaction in return. Until next time!

 

Ciao

Mark, Mikhael, Quilla & Steven

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

 

Participating in a service-learning program is a new idea to all of us. We landed in Uganda with three different ideas of what the next three months were going to entail. As we begin our service programs we are slowly beginning to see what differentiates a service-learning program from your typical study abroad program.  We applied for this program with similar interests in mind. We enjoy traveling and knew it was a good way to broaden our academic horizons, but we also wanted to be submerged in a foreign culture and serve the community.  Upon coming to Tanzania, we were looking for a challenge. We wanted to push ourselves mentally, physically, and emotionally and see just how far we could be pushed, and how well we could handle the challenges.  Within our studies in The United States we have learned that hands-on classes have been the most beneficial learning style for us. We seem to grasp the ideas presented through experience and involvement much more clearly than in a classroom setting where the information is just being told to us.

                Aside from our similarities, what differentiates the three of us can ultimately be seen within our different placements.  Isabel will be working at Aprofi, specifically the kindergarten program. Aprofi also engages in the community by building food storage units and working in agricultural programs. Carly will be assisting water tank workers at Mavuno, a non-profit organization that is also greatly involved in agricultural projects.  Sarah will be working at WOMEDA, Women Emancipation Development Agency. The organization works with marital problems, women’s and children’s rights, and economic development.  The three programs have different influences within the community and reflect our different interests. Between Isabel’s desire to work amongst the youth of Karagwe, Carly’s interest in learning how agriculture and basic needs are obtained in the community and Sarah’s desire to see the social aspects within Tanzania, these projects display a wide range of Tanzanian life.

                This program is geared toward service-learning within rural Tanzania. Throughout our stay in Kayanga we hope to shed light on our different placements and learn how they affect both the community, and our own learning experiences. Our intent is that this blog gives you, the reader, insight into life in rural Tanzania, as well as how service-learning programs are beneficial within academia.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

This semester four very different people traveled to Cochabamba, Bolivia to learn Spanish, a little about Bolivian politics and a lot about the life of a different culture and people. Mark, the 20 year old biology major, came to Bolivia hoping to make a difference in the community and hoping to figure out what to do with his life. Having previously traveled to Holland and Italy, Mark wanted to see the other side of the economic spectrum and step outside his comfort zone. Stepping outside ones comfort zone is something, Quilla, the 20 year old theatre major can relate to. Quilla left Ithaca College and came to Bolivia knowing no Spanish and having never taken a political science class. Being born in Bolivia, she hopes to connect with a heritage and culture she has never experienced. Mikhael (21) and Steven (26) study Spanish and international studies emphasizing in Latin American development.  Mikhael, was drawn to Latin America through his study of the language and is here, to experience the culture and people first hand. Steven became drawn to the problems of Latin America through the language, but also through his studies of the problems that face some of the underdeveloped countries of the region. He hopes to learn about the issues facing the people from there perspective so that he can gain a greater understanding and be more effective in working in the development field.

 

All of us come from very different backgrounds, even though we all come from an area of about 200 square miles of each other.  We all bring to the table different political ideologies, morals, and beliefs. However, we didn’t want to just study abroad in another country, we wanted to have the chance to make a difference and leave a positive mark on the community, as well as leave a good image of our home country in the mind of Cochabambinos. Despite our different majors, ages, and interests what we hope to gain from this experience is very much the same. We all want to learn the language, experience the culture, broaden our comprehension of the world and make a difference in this community. Along the way we will post what we do and what we see here, in hopes that we can show others how great Cochabamba can be and maybe even convince a few to join the Amizade family here in Bolivia.

 

Buen Viaje

 

Mark, Quilla, Mikhael & Steven

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Our Legacies

As we near the end of our time abroad, thoughts of the future have begun to creep into our minds. When we arrived, we knew little of what was actually going on and we had doubts that we could leave any impact at all. Now that we are leaving, we are seeing glimpses of our impacts here after all. However, we are still left to wonder how these impacts will carry on after we leave. What legacy will we leave behind us when we go?

Reflecting on this semester’s themes of impact and value has taught us much about ourselves, both as Americans and as individuals. Our journeys in Tanzania and Bolivia have been filled with new lessons and new perspectives. As Lindsay said, “We have been able to learn lessons abroad that we could never have learned in our home country.” One thing that has not changed is the hope that we all will leave a lasting, positive effect at our service sites. In Tanzania, we have heard stories about past volunteers’ beneficial impacts here, and we hope that one day those stories may involve us as well. If we would leave a bad impression in our host countries, future volunteers would certainly be negatively affected from our actions. This is one of the many reasons why we have all tried to be as positive as possible.

In the past (as well as the present), international development from the United States has worn an ugly mask. Capitalist ideology has pushed its way into NGO’s plans and a lot of international aid has become a means of benefiting the developer. In a way, as Sarah said, our volunteer work abroad is playing into a development system that is accomplishing the opposite of what we are aiming for. It is true that we have impacted both Tanzanian and Bolivian culture in some way. The amount of cultural exchange that has occurred in the past two months cannot be overlooked. But it is the manner in which we have impacted these cultures that stands out as different. We have not only been volunteering under good intentions, but also with critical reflection on those intentions, as well as with the goals of the community (and not ourselves) in mind.

Our legacies stand out differently from those of national corporations or NGO’s. In both Tanzania and Bolivia, we have all left a personal mark. Below are overviews of how we feel about these personal legacies that are being left behind…

Views of Tanzania:

Lindsay & Kelsey feel positive that if nothing else, their legacies will live on ecologically through the plants that they have nurtured. These plants will continue to grow in the tree nursery for the community to use. Some of these plants may be used for wood to foster the building of new homes for the poor, while others will be used to provide food sources to families. Other than this ecological legacy, social impacts of their service will also be left. Stereotypes of Americans have been altered and brought down during their time working with local people.

Sarah’s time at APROFI Kindergarten has helped her to learn about the impacts that previous volunteers have left. It seems that the cycling of volunteers is common in this classroom. Before long, the teacher will probably be telling the next volunteer about Sarah‘s impact–enhancing her legacy over time. The biggest legacy that she hopes to leave, is the thought that she cared enough about the people of Tanzania to travel halfway across the world in an effort to help them.

Elizabeth’s involvement at WOMEDA has also added to the long line of volunteer work that has been done there before. She has grown close with her coworkers and has adopted WOMEDA’s goals as her own. Her legacy will live on not only through the visible work that she has completed, but also through the new perceptions that her friends carry. Because of her presence, views on Americans, Western women, and white people in general have been altered. Elizabeth has also seen an impact on her own family back home. Interest has sparked up not only about Tanzania, but of WOMEDA and the great services that they provide. Because of her time here, other people clear across the world have become involved in WOMEDA’s quests and may continue to stay involved.

At the hospital, Sara feels that she will leave a legacy most through the memories of the employees that work there. Volunteers in the future will be able to fill the gap that she is leaving behind at the registration desk, but they will not be able to fill in the memories that she has made. All of the paperwork and files that bear her handwriting will serve as a reminder of her time in the clinic as well. Stereotypes have also been altered from her presence, so future volunteers will not have to face as many false generalizations. Her final hope is that she has left the impression that she was thrilled to be here, and that she was here to both learn from and to help local Tanzanians in Karagwe.

As we tell our stories to others back home about our time in Tanzania, more interest will be sparked and more students may decide to participate in this study-abroad program through Amizade. The future of each of our service sites holds its own possibilities, for both locals and new study-abroad volunteers to fill in where we left off.

Views from Bolivia:

Justin believes that his impact will be telling his story and that of the children’s when he is back in the United States. Although, he is not convinced he is leaving a legacy he does hope that his interaction at the orphanage will prove to be helpful to the organization.

Shawnna, after taking this trip, wants to assist other volunteers from the United States to make their way to  Cochabamba. In giving friends and acquaintances an outlet to a reputable orphanage she believes she can continue the cycle of volunteers working with these children we have come to care about so much. For Shawnna, who was unsure about working with kids in the beginning of the trip, the orphanage has become a positive atmosphere where she would like to encourage future volunteers to contribute. Also, the girls’ home has made Shawnna feel that she is giving a worldly view to these children and at the same time benefiting from their insight into Bolivian culture.

Nora is happy that she has become part of the big family of children, workers, and volunteers at the orphanage. She is excited to keep updated on the future projects of the orphanage. Nora believes that this is an atmosphere that is good for these children to grow up.  She hopes that she has added some happiness to their lives, because she knows she has received  joy and learned so much about herself from these children.

In Bolivia we believe that we can encourage others to volunteer here despite the political atmosphere. Each one of us has grown from the experience at the orphanage. We all think that continuing the flow of volunteers to Bolivia and especially Cochabamba is important when we return home. We have come to love the places where we volunteer and have heard too many stories about the exit of American volunteers and funding because of relations between the U.S. and Bolivia. The group hopes that we can make a difference by retelling the positive experiences from our time in Cochabamba.

Both in Tanzania and in Bolivia we have been aware of the images that we present to the people we surround in two very different cultures. These views of ourselves individually compared those workers in the past or what the views of our work compared to people’s views of us coming from the U.S. Due to the history of the United States government and NGOs in both countries, we were definitely concience of our reputation. It seems important that most of us tried to prove that we were good workers and  made an effort to replace any previous negative views. In addition, we all have intentions of spreading our stories when we return to encourage study-abroad and service-learning trips.

“Our deeds still travel with us from afar, and what we have been makes us what we are.” – George Eliot

Image: Dia de Los Ninos celebration at the orphanage.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Discovering How Service Has Shaped Us

Walking To The Park in Cochabamba   (The volunteers in Bolivia learn new lessons from the children at the orphanage every day.)

“We travel, initially to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves.”

–Pico Iyer

This week we considered the work we are doing at our service sites in Tanzania and Bolivia and used it as a vantage point for self-reflection.  Before leaving the United States we were warned that our service sites may have a greater impact on us than we have on them.  Each of our journal entries seem to prove that this is true.  In the past we have struggled to see how we are making a difference in our communities, but when the reflection was turned around we had no shortage of examples of how our service sites and communities are impacting us.

Despite our respective countries and different service placements, all eight of us have agreed that taking time away from our busy, consumer-driven American lives has given us a unique vantage point for self-reflection.  We have all become much more aware of our representation to the United States, and it affects how we act, talk, and even dress.  Even though some of us are frustrated with the impact that we may or not be making in our service placements, we all have come to the conclusion that we represent a portion of the world that many people in Tanzania and/or Bolivia only have assumptions (and sometimes stereotypes) about.  It’s safe to say that we all want to break cultural barriers and really foster relationships with our communities. Most of the students have recognized that our self-reflection starts with the fact that we all chose to remove ourselves from our cultural norms in the United States; and this cultural immersion has made all of us learn things about ourselves that we would not have learned without being deprived of our normal routines at home.

While the degree of self-reflection is about the same in all of us, our personal self-reflections have differed somewhat because we are in different areas of service.  For example, Nora has more patience than she thought, Sara O has decided after her experience in the hospital that she wants to re-evaluate her career goals, Shawnna realized that she enjoys children, and Kelsey has learned from the Tanzanians that work can be a beauty rather than a burden.  As one can tell, all of us have had our own, different lessons, but through our blogging we can come together and share our experiences and personal lessons.  All of the Tanzania students recognize something in Tanzania life that is missing in their lives in the United States.  Elizabeth put it rather well in her blog by saying, “The irony never ceases to amaze me – I see so many aspects of Tanzanian life and society that I envy, value, and see lacking in my life and our culture; yet, all around me are people who want nothing more than to live the life they presume I have.” We all came to Bolivia and Tanzania because we wanted change, and that change is manifested through our own self-reflection and its effect on our identity in our respective countries, and eventually in our home country.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment