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Travel the world without leaving home

The experience of communities that recruit volunteers

Since she decided to open the doors of her home to accommodate the thousand volunteers who come from all over the world to Casa de los Niños, Rocío has shared her home, her routines, her dreams with six young people from Italy, Mexico and Spain. For her, this experience was a desire loaded with opportunities that allowed her to "hit the road to the whole world."

Let's talk with her, who is a member of the community that accompanies the Casa de los Niños Foundation in Bolivia, and who decided for a while that the way she could be part of the Milonga was to put her place in common so that the volunteers who will arrive there will find a house that welcomes them with open arms and accompanies them in this adventure of service.

Why did you decide to open the doors of your house to receive volunteers?

There was a lot of reflection on the request from my friends who worked and lived at Casa de los Niños. I immediately liked the idea because at some point in my life I was a volunteer, and I am convinced that volunteering can transform the vision that people have of life, society, and themselves.

What is the experience of learning and living with these young people who come from so many different cultures like?

As a premise, I say that I had been living alone for more than 10 years, to decide that in that time I formed, without processing it, a space where the order is mine, the disorder is mine, the rhythms of things are mine, etc. Until that moment when I took the first volunteer home, I was always doing it my way.

From that perspective, getting back together with other people had its little challenges, as it meant setting aside things that I considered obvious to embrace new ways of doing things. I didn't want my home to be a hotel with rules to follow, but rather a space where volunteers would temporarily feel at home. And achieving that hasn't always been easy, but I've realized that the last few experiences have been easier. Although I still have a long way to go, I think I've learned a little bit about losing or giving up little things every day and with time it gets easier.

It has been like welcoming nice guests into the house, with their ways of doing things and their differences. I jokingly tell my friends that I have adopted daughters because I feel a responsibility that they don't get sick, that they don't get lost, that nothing happens to them; it is a necessity and at the same time a gift for the possibility of getting out of myself and my worries to be attentive to the needs of other people, who at first don't know the language or the city well. It may seem contradictory but I think that is the biggest personal gain this time.

On the other hand, each volunteer arrives with a new story, a new language, new foods, a new culture, new friends, it has been like traveling around the world without leaving home. I've eaten Italian, Spanish, Mexican food; I've learned about the music, professions, festivals, traditions and sayings of each country.

I like to compare this experience to the movie UP. Note that I am the grumpy old man and the volunteers are the Boy Scouts.

Do you have any particular experience that you would like to share with us?

Here is a recent experience, I was taking care of a two-year-old boy at home for a few days. Actually, I did little because who took care of him were the volunteers, but it was to see up close the reality of orphaned or abandoned children; a reality that I had always heard about and thought I knew a little about, but didn't imagine the stories of pain that exist behind it and all the reality that it involves. For a few days I felt like a volunteer, and now that the girls are no longer here I try to have contact with this child and pray that she finds a home soon.

What have these experiences with volunteers left for your life?

I get the richness of the differences, that when one opens up to the other one can experience unexpected things, despite the day-to-day difficulties that may arise. I also have the satisfaction of having put my grain of sand in the experience of these young people who leave everything for a while to donate to a good cause. And also to know that although I cannot volunteer full-time, I always have something to give, and that it is possible to travel and get to know new worlds and people without leaving home.

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