ECOTOURISM – YANN
One of Sustainable Bolivia’s projects is taking place in the Aquicuana Reserve and focuses on ecotourism. Sustainable Bolivia believes that this project is essential to upkeep the sustainability of the environment and the communities of the Aquicuana Reserve. Giving the communities the ability to manage their own environment is key to prevent future developments of possible interventionist tourism that could potentially destroy the region and its communities
Over the last couple of months our work has been to prepare the ground for the next generation of volunteers to follow. Much of this work has been to increase the visibility of the developments of the project through various reports and through the establishment of new partnerships. During my work here this process allowed me to understand the incentives of ecotourism here in the Aquicuana Reserve.
Lately, the action taken was more practical. As a volunteer I have been going to the jungle with my fellow volunteers. With machetes we fought ourselves through the jungle to create paths for future tourists. Working in the jungle must be one of the most fun parts of this project. While getting deeper and deeper in the forest we try to create paths big enough to walk but small enough to not destroy the jungle. It can be pretty rough, especially due to the many mosquitos that are even worse during rain season, the sudden moments of intense rain and just the simple fact that one is trying to move forward in a vegetation that does not want to allow that. Other surprises include snakes, jaguars footprints and at times the sudden realisation that you are out there alone. When you realise that there is really nobody with you, you can really feel alone in this huge green, wet area. Only when I am in this unknown environment, I recognise the cities’ comfort. Nevertheless, I would go out there again and again and again.
CENTRO NUEVOS HORIZONTES – LEANDRA
It is 9am and 30 degrees. Mangoes are falling from the trees. “Tuuut tuuuut” I hear from the streets, a little reminder that I am running late. I grab my bag and run out of the house. I almost feel like I am at home, but I’m definitely not. I’m in Riberalta, a city surrounded by rainforest, on the other side of the world from where I am actually from.
The bus which came to pick me up is punctual, which is not that usual here. The moment I get out of the volunteers house, the door of the minivan opens and I enter my new daily universe. Eleven heads turn in my direction, most of them with a happy smile. Then I take my seat in the back and the van starts moving again. Five minutes later we stop in front of a house, surrounded by a white wall. The letters which are painted in colorful colours let me know that we arrived at the “Centro Nuevos Horizontes” a center for children with special needs. The door opens and the van slowly enters the backyard, which is green and in the middle you can see a small playground. On the walls are friendly paintings, kids of all colour, age and capability are playing together.
The door opens and kids of van start moving, the ones which were still asleep, wake up, start communicating and get out of the bus. Outside are my co-workers, waiting to get all the kids inside for breakfast: The first challenge of the day! Some love breakfast, some don’t and some would rather play. If I am lucky, I make it through the breakfast without being wet from spilled chocolate milk. Nevertheless, the next challenge is around the corner: brushing the teeth of the children.
Finally we all take place in a circle to welcome each other and sing together. For me this is the most beautiful part of the day. Everyone is participating in their own way. Some are dancing, some are clapping their hands, some are just laughing or say “Hello” to each other, sometimes only with their eyes. We sing songs about crocodiles, cutlery, flying or dancing hands. Always accompanied by signs with hands. To see the joy and the peace on the faces of the kids is amazing.
The circle finally splits up in two groups. The children which can walk and the others which sit in the wheel chair. Until lunch they will do exercises for improving their mobility. To learn to walk, sit or just use their muscles in more specific ways.
I work with the other group. Today we are making pictures with straws. The whole process from cutting the straws, putting the glue on the paper and finally creating a masterpiece of art, is a challenge for the kids and there is a lot to learn. After a while we start playing games like puzzles or building towers. At twelve o’clock is lunchtime and after lunchtime we start to shower our little kids.
One by one enjoys the cold water in this incredibly hot environment. Meanwhile we are collecting all the clothes and shoes and start making the hair of the girls. Now we wait for the minivan to pick us up. Some will have to drive home for over an hour, I however am the first one to get off the bus. The kids continue their way home, back to their families.
The energy and joy these tiny humans have is impressive. Even though I am now back on the road, continuing my travels, I will never forget these happy faces. I spent a wonderful time in Riberalta and I wish everyone I met there truly the best!
CRISTO TE SALVA – ESTHER
I pay the taxista, say hasta luego and open the gate. It’s been 3 months now that I began this small routine at the orphanage Cristo te Salva, little by little starting to feel more like home. I started going there with another volunteer, wanting to bring creativity development projects to the children, but like for everything here, you must be flexible and open to new ideas. Thus, I now help them more in their everyday-life, as much with the small children as with the teenagers and the couple leading this small family. I contribute to the homework time and take some time to talk casually with some of the children. If I got some time left, I make an activity along the same line as my initial ideas of initiation into art. The afternoon ends slowly, and I help them to cook dinner. This is one of my favourite moments: with 2 or 3 kids, we’re talking cheerfully while cutting some vegetables and always at that time, I realize how grateful I am for everything. For the connections I have created with all of them; for that feeling of having a place in that family; for those arms that embrace me when I arrive; for the shared dinner we had all together; for the generosity I encountered in the hearts of all. I know I probably have not changed their life, but I reckon that I have made my small contribution with ideas and activities I brought, and all the love I gave them.