Volunteer Work in Southamerica

Volunteer Work in Southamerica

Volunteer Work in Latin America



Christmas in Latin America known as Navidad is one of the most important events in the year. It is celebrated with even more devotion than in other parts of the world due to the omnipresence of Christianity; after all, Christmas is centered around the age-old story of Jesus’ birth on the 24th of December.

For most Latinos it is very much a religious holiday with families attending together the Misa de Gallo (Mass of the Rooster because it usually finishes at 1 am when the rooster announces the coming day). Christmas Eve or Noche Buena really is the time of giving, but many Latin American families also keep alive the Día de los Tres Reyes. Those children who have behaved themselves well will receive a second round of presents on January 6th from the Three Wise Men, just like they did after Jesus was born.

Besides all the similarities, there is great influence from the different indigenous people of the region and many Latin American cultures hang on to their own curiosities during Christmas time:

celebrating Christmas in Latin America

Chile
In Chile they do a toast with a monkey’s tail. Not what you might think, but the cola de mono is a traditional Christmas cocktail made with milk, coffee, sugar, cinnamon and brandy.  Father Christmas is known as Viejito Pascuero who wishes everyone a Feliz Navidad. And at New Year’s Eve they have the habit to burn huge dolls made out of old clothes, paper and wood with the fire supposedly eradicating all the bad and purifying the start of the New Year.
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How could you learn Spanish in South America while discovering places and cultures and also doing something useful? It’s a question many of our volunteers initially have asked themselves before they started to plan their trip.

Working as a volunteer in Bolivia is for many the perfect answer. Volunteer Work Latin America arranges placements at an integrated child care center in a beautiful semi-rural valley surrounded by the red and green Andean mountains at only 15 km. from La Paz, capital of Bolivia.

The center, or “the Nursery” as Emma (one of the humble founders of the project) affectionately calls it, has caused a tremendous impact on the largely indigenous population, pulling them out of very vulnerable situations and social, economic and political exclusion. We have asked her a few questions about the project and the involvement of volunteers.

Volunteer in Bolivia at a children’s center (Interview part I)

Can you explain your role in the organization?
The children’s Centre started in my home with 30 children. We now have a lovely purpose built children center with just under 90 children, between the ages of 6 months and 4 years that come to learn, to play and to be nurtured. Whilst I was very involved in the first two years raising and managing the project, the Centre is now run entirely by local women, many of them indigenous Aymara who wear the traditional bowler hats and wide skirts. My role is now mainly concerned with fundraising to ensure the sustainability of the project and coordinating the work of the volunteers to provide vital hands-on support in the classrooms and for the care of the children.

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In continuation of the first part of the interview with the founder of the childcare centre in Bolivia we continue the interview with more questions:

Briefly, what is your overall experience with volunteers?
We are constantly moved and inspired by the people who come to volunteer with us and share so freely their talents and time. The first week can often be overwhelming as hardly anyone speaks English and the children are all clamoring for your attention. But from experience we know that by the end of the second week, our volunteers feel very at home in the nursery and understand the routines and activities and realize that they are really being helpful. We recommend a minimum stay of 1 month, as too much change can unsettle the children and also the local staff. Actually, many of our volunteers choose to extend their stay as they see the true benefits of their presence in the nursery and for their study Spanish in Bolivia.

Volunteer in Bolivia at a children’s center (Interview part II)
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