Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Focused on the Content

Written by Connie Popkess

Having been here for one month, and being nearly halfway through, the thoughts of how quickly time is flying, and that my time in Bolivia is coming to an end, upsets me greatly. However, with the incredible company of this group of volunteers, my project team, my host family and the office staff, I am soon left cackling (in my case not laughing) away again.

So far, it has been a very busy first month. On project; our Action Friday (where we got everyone to help with the maintenance of some greenhouses) was a huge success. We have met with the members of our project partner, 'Focapaci', a few times, and a fellow volunteer and I have created a number of workshops aimed at empowering the women we work with in El Alto by enlightening them of their human rights and gender equality - a topic which is a priority for me whilst I am working here. And off-project; having gone on a big trip with the majority of the cohort to Salar De Uyuni (the world's largest salt flat), my housemate and I were able to see the Bolivian band 'Octavia' play a gig in a tiny bar at the excellent recommendation of my very musical host family.

One of the best things about being a part of the Urban Agriculture project is the dynamic of our various environments. We usually work in one of two places, the office in La Paz or the homes of the women we work with in El Alto. Both of which have their perks and drawbacks. While I welcome the fresh air we get when maintaining the greenhouses outside, the chaos of El Alto's roads can be a bit much to bare after a long day of construction in the sun (which is much stronger than anywhere I've ever been before, due to the extremely high altitude)! On the other hand, as a person who hates being stuck indoors (especially with florescent lights as you often find in offices), I manage to bare it with little discomfort with the company of our fantastic project team as we always manage to have a laugh without falling behind on our work, as I feel we are all very passionate about our project goals!

My favourite day so far on-project was without a doubt when we gave our first workshop to the women of APAUA, one of the sections of the women's association, 'APU', with whish we work. It was originally only supposed to be a diagnostics workshop to find out what information they needed about the commercialisation of their products, gender equality or their human rights. However, this ended up turning into a very in-depth conversation about their experiences with gender equality. Afterwards, they thanked us for being there to listen to them and giving them the information they needed to put an end to clear cases of inequality. I didn't feel worthy of this thanks but it was nice to know our presence was wanted. It's safe to say I had never heard stories like theirs before and I have never been so inspired by a group of women before. My admiration for them is extortionate because they've been through so much hardship in their lives, and, rather than carry on this abuse to the people around them, they can see it is wrong and that they deserve better. So, they are laying the foundations to gender equality by raising issues like the ones they spoke about and make the rights that are legally theirs, social norms.

All in all I am thoroughly enjoying my time in Bolivia, for the experience of being in such a beautiful country, full of beautiful, friendly and inspiring people and also because I never thought an urban agriculture project could make me feel so emotionally rewarded.

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