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From Italy to Bolivia. The encounter with a culture that is now part of us

We are Miriam and Valentina. In April 2022, we volunteered in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Before the departure, we were driven by a strong motivation and a desire to leave, but despite these, it seemed that the wait was long and there many things to do and to prepare.

We both felt the need to disconnect from our routine. To achieve this, we chose a volunteer experience in a country that is culturally different from ours, which could make us grow internally. We wanted to come back transformed with a new vision of the world.Upon our arrival, we were welcomed by Gianluca, our tutor, and Rocio, our host for the entire experience. Both of them made us feel at home immediately.

Right from the start, we noticed the obvious differences between our cities. Cochabamba lies on a plateau, which is 2700 meters above the sea level with the Andes mountains at its background. The city is immense and driving around the streets we realized how many buildings were under construction or left unfinished, nevertheless, they were inhabited. Another difference was the large number of people who live and eat on the street sidewalks.

Gianluca promptly took us to know the reality of school and its various activities; and asked for our preferences for age group and the type of assistance that we can provide the children. We chose to assist with the kindergarten class and with the children with disabilities.

A difficulty, which perhaps we have overcome only partially, was understanding the behavior of teachers and children in the light of the social context in which they were inserted. Therefore, it was spontaneous for us to use the category we knew and had experienced in our school back home.

We realized that it was essential to immerse ourselves in the reality that we were experiencing, to fully understand both its limits and resources. Right from the start, we were able to relate spontaneously and easily with the children and young people of the school.

In this experience we have met people, lifestyle and condition that are completely new to us and that we will carry with us throughout our lives. We have let ourselves be fully involved in the experience, although this have shaken us deeply, our cultural horizons expanded, and now we feel more inclined to dialogue and listening.

At the end of this experience we feel happy and grateful for everything we have seen and experienced: the smiles of the children, the energy of Gianluca and all the teachers and professionals who are committed to improving the living conditions of the children, Rocio’s guidance, the music, the llamas, the cuñapè. It's all still with us!

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