Monday, October 13, 2014

Introducing Cohort 10...

Six months ago I was sat down at a computer reflecting upon my time as a volunteer with the Urban Agriculture and Nutrition team here in La Paz. After this three-month spell, it felt as if I had left something behind in Bolivia, whether it be the nature of the project, my enjoyment of working with International Service, or the great people I had met here.

To be given the opportunity to return as a Team Leader is a real privilege, and to see many of the same faces from before has made me realise I have made the right choice. My joy at seeing such faces has now, however, been equalled by encountering the new faces, be it the fellow Team Leaders, in-country volunteers (cooperantes) or UK volunteers, not least in the Urban Agriculture and Nutrition team.

The coperantes in this team, having been on this project for 3 months, bring experience and a pronounced understanding of our current situation and, throughout my four weeks here to date, have acted as a great source of ideas and support. Our project partner, Focapaci, values them both highly, as do I. The UK volunteers, of which our team now has five, have immediately brought fresh vigour and renewed opportunism since they arrived two weeks ago. Their enthusiasm to get started, commitment to the project, and willingness to learn have made me more excited and optimistic about the following months than I have ever been before.

So let me introduce the people I hope and expect to take this project to exciting new ground over the next three months:

Cohort 10 of the Urban Agriculture & Nutrition Team (September - December 2014)

The strengths of this team leave me somewhat embarrassed to call myself the Team Leader. As you can see with the various roles outlined, I already think them sufficiently competent and determined to take on leadership roles within the project. What’s more, they are all as versatile as they are capable, and so my hope is that we can be somewhat flexible to the various needs of the project and give each volunteer a strong experience of its many facets. From my own experience, I know how quickly the three months can go, but I’m of the sincere belief that if we can even get close to our potential as a team we will be remembered by the families we work with, the project partner and International Service as one the most successful.

The tangible nature of the project at the moment also lends itself to this conclusion. We hope, for example, to complete a nutrition document to be distributed to the families, now nine months in the making. We also hope to develop the commercialisation side, with the objective of establishing a larger, more sustainable client base and handing over more responsibility to the families. We expect to spend one day per week supporting the investigational work of Focapaci at their greenhouses, whilst we also hope to complete video manuals on the cultivation of vegetables, which will offer another medium to support our work in improving the nutrition of the families of El Alto.

Newly, it is our expectation that every volunteer is able to spend at least two days per week in El Alto working directly with the families and their greenhouses; work that is both highly-rewarding and offers the families much-needed mental and physical support. This cohort also aims to introduce workshops on human rights and nutrition, which could act as an effective way to communicate our ideals to the women’s organisations we work with, and potentially local schools also.

In three months time, I’ll again be sat down at a computer reflecting upon my time here with this cohort. And with the group we have, I’m already dreading the day it will come. Before we really get going this cohort, I’d like to thank my team, who already leave me more convinced than ever of my decision to return, and International Service for sending such a capable group my way!  Finally, a big thank you to all the previous Team Leaders, cooperantes and UK volunteers who have been fundamental in getting this project to the stage it is at now - you will always be part of 'Team Focapaci', and we will strive to make you proud.

Vamos Focapaci!

Cameron Angus

For any more information on the work of the Urban Agriculture and Nutrition Team, please feel free to get in touch via agricultura.urb@isbolivia.org or leave a comment here.

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