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We are Chiara and Cecilia, students in our third year of university. In August, our experience began in Bolivia and ended in October in the month. During our stay in Cochabamba we volunteered at the Rincon de Luz center, which welcomes children aged 6 to 17 with families in vulnerable condition and offers them pre and post school service every day.

Upon arrival we didn’t know what to expect: we had only our backpacks (in Spanish mochila) on our shoulders and a great desire to get involved and help in anything the center would need.

The task of supporting the children was entrusted to us, we were responsible for helping them complete their tasks and organize themselves in preparing games and activities. However,we also helped in a lot of concrete activities especially in maintaining the structure of the center: gardening, reorganization of spaces and classrooms.

We were hosted by two local families who welcomed us for free and who immediately made us feel at home (even today we continue to talk!). Over the weekend, when the center was closed, we often spent our time with them, living the Bolivian culture and getting to know places, traditional and culinary customs.

From the beginning, the impact with this new reality prompted us to do our best to adapt. Diversity put us to the test, we had difficulty in distinguishing situations that could have been dangerous from those in which cultural differences took shape. For example, in the first period of service, we had to gradually get used to their system of public transport on which we didn’t always feel secure. Slowly have gained more confidence in the people of the place and the autonomy to travel.

At first glance, the Bolivians are quite wary of Europeans, especially because of their past as a Spanish colony. We often felt like foreigners, being easily distinguishable physically which helped us understand more deeply those who find themselves migrants in other countries where reception is not immediate.

This is an awareness that we never would have gained if we had not lived an experience like t that allowed us to put ourselves in the foreigner’s shoes and opening our eyes to a reality that touches us every day in Italy.

Another aspect of which we have become aware of is the diversity in approaches to the same situation. Being from Italy we had an approach towards the children that we took from our years as working and interacting with children in various contexts ( like our camps for teenagers) for which we tended to have the need to keep everything under control in a way that didn’t suit the environment where we were.

In fact, the children were accustomed to greater freedom through which they learned the responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

For example, for us their learning depended on what they would demonstrate through completing their tasks but for the teacher who instructed them their growth was more in understanding that if they had not completed the task it would meen discipline from the head of the school.

In this way we understood that there is no ” right and a wrong way” to face situations but only different ways to achieve the same goal.

Among the various treasures that this experience has left us, two things are particularly close to our hearts. We always thought it was difficult to succeed in being a mother to others. In that context, on the other hand, we found ourselves capable! we didn’t hold ourselves back in front of situations that would have normally caught us off guard.

For example, when towards the end of the experience we returned home with our shirts soiled by little hands full of mud, we thought about how the first few days this lack of hygiene limited in showing them affection.

Returning to everyday life we ​​realized how much has changed in our way of living everyday life: we do not worry so much that things go exactly as planned but we have a new willingness to be flexible in the face of change; this allows us to live more quietly and fully every day.

It is an experience that we continue and will continue for a long time to discover in terms of the impact on our daily life. The icing on the cake was to share this adventure with each other, finding support in the difficulties and rejoicing together in the beauties and small daily achievements. This experience, which has bonded us, is the springboard for new adventures through which we hope to entice those who, like us, are ready to start walking with their rucksacks on their shoulders.

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