Volunteerism and a new, city-wide contest!

The meditation and technology workshops began this week and were the first in a month-long series of both. There was a good mix of Bolivians and foreigners in attendance on Monday, though attendance could have been better for Wednesday’s workshop. Next up in the technology series will be a workshop on how to use Excel, then Powerpoint, and perhaps another course on using google search and opening up an email account (since the workshop on Microsoft Word took up the majority of this week’s hour.) Although Omari will continue to run workshops until the end of this month, we will be looking to introduce a new volunteer to take over Omari and Aileen’s position in the next week.

Once again, we are reminded this week of the importance of making expectations clear when taking on volunteers. Although we’ve generally had positive relationships with our volunteers and the majority have stayed with us longer than they intended, there is something to be said about the tourist volunteer attitude that we have encountered from a few folks. In general, our understanding is that volunteers are here to support us in the work that we do, not impose their understanding of how things should be onto us and this project (or onto the other organizations they ask to volunteer at here). This has generally not been a problem, but we’ve found that those really looking to have everything organized to the “T” are not able to adapt to the unpredictable and changing circumstances, as well as the everyday realities of life here in Bolivia. In the end, it can be a fairly big waste of our time and resources to place volunteers in organizations that they will not be happy in should they be unable to change things, leave their mark, and pat themselves on the back for a few good day’s worth of charity work. It’s shocking to see the lack of respect that many outsiders can show to the realities of working in Bolivia and the challenges that come with getting anything done here. It’s equally dumbfounding to witness the arrogance with which many come into Bolivia and into these organizations assuming that they know better than people here after arriving only a few days before. Anyway, it’s extremely important now that we are working towards greater efficiency to be more clear about expectations from the get go and really stress that we do not have time to include volunteers of a few weeks into all our decision-making processes.

Also, this week we’ve decided to enter a contest sponsored by the Alcaldia! There are several different categories under which people are invited to submit innovative ideas. We decided that we will run under the Tourism category for the project. They will announce 50 winners who will receive a month-long technical assistance training course in order to incubate and support their new ideas. Of those 50, 7 will also be chosen for a $5,000 cash prize that can be used to either bring the nascent idea to fruition or fund the enhancement of an already somewhat developed project. The due date has been postponed for another week, giving us more time to work on the application. Unfortunately, as with most things here in Sucre, winners are chosen based on connections and who knows who, so none of us are holding our breath! Fingers crossed, however, that we are at least chosen for the technical assistance as we are badly in need of a hand with our paperwork!



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