Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Making a difference

This week we made a difference. We didn’t end poverty or cure cancer. We dug a hole. It’s one meter by three, half a meter deep. Because of this hole a family will be able to grow vegetables, and supplement their diet with food they could not otherwise afford. It sounds like a small thing, and in the scope of the world it is. But to a small family living on the outskirts of El Alto, where malnutrition is a constant threat, it is important. It will make a real difference to their lives. This is the heart of our project’s objective. As a small group of young people we cannot make the sweeping changes we might idealistically desire. Instead we must whittle the world down into manageable chunks to work on.

Although it is manageable, the work is not easy. This is especially true for those of us not used to doing physical activity at 4000m (though this should become easier to deal with as our project progresses). We wake up early and travel for an hour and a half to reach the outskirts of El Alto by cable car, two minibuses and then a 20 minute walk. Once there we dig through tough earth, using a pickaxe to break it into smaller chunks. We then shovel out the fractured earth, using a makeshift sieve to remove large rocks. Finally the soil will be mixed with fertiliser and placed back in the hole to grow vegetables. Never before have I been in a team so intent on doing a good job. The six of us worked quickly and effectively, swapping roles so that everyone would have a go at everything without getting too tired. Everyone worked vigorously, more intent on finishing than just leaving once our time was up.

Not only is our team hardworking, but it is also full of kind people. On Tuesday one of our team overworked himself and collapsed due to the thin air. Within seconds the rest of the team dropped what they were doing and helped him quickly recover. On the way back to La Paz on Wednesday one of our Bolivian volunteers found a starving puppy abandoned on the road. She quickly found it a home with a friend and we smuggled it down to La Paz on the cable car. As with our project these acts are small, but they speak volumes about the character of our teammates, and what differences they can and will make in the future.

As we move forward with this project I hope that we continue to provide real aid to the people we work with. While relatively small in global terms, what we are doing is huge to these families. Every journey like this starts with a single step. This is what gets us up each morning to grab a pickaxe and start digging. 

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