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Volunteer Testimonials

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Victoria Zappia: Work at a Baby Shelter and Children’s Orphanage in Bolivia

Bolivia Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia  |  Aug 02, 2012
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 I would highly recommend volunteering. Being able to work with locals and help out in the community gives you an experience unlike any other. 

Victoria is from Canada and has volunteered a number of times before. With just a short space of time to spare, she made the exciting decision to join one of Kaya's projects in Bolivia for 2 weeks.

Why did you choose Kaya?

I chose Kaya because it had programs that were reasonably priced and from the mission statement it seemed like an organization that wasn’t just concerned about making a profit, but also giving back to the communities and to the projects in which volunteers were placed.

Tell us what made you choose that particular project/country?

I chose Bolivia because I had never before been to South America. Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in South America so I wanted to volunteer in a country that had the most need for it. I was also attracted to the Baby Shelter program that was offered in Bolivia. 

Tell us about your role in your project?

I worked at an orphanage in the city of Santa Cruz. My mornings started at 8am where I played with the children before helping to feed them their first meal. After meal time it was time to bathe and dress, followed by another meal and then nap time. I was responsible for helping to care for 12 children between the ages of 1yrs and 2yrs.

What were you most worried about before you came?

The main thing I was worried about was my host family and where I would be staying, considering I didn’t have valid information about my home stay until 2 days before departure. Other than that I had general worries about the safety of the city in which I would be staying and how I would get to and from placement. 

What have you been surprised by during your stay?

I found the city of Santa Cruz to feel a lot safer than I the accounts I read about on the internet and from previous travelers. All in all if you try to fit in, dress down and fly under the radar you are likely not going to run into any problems. Bolivia also wasn’t as poor as I expected, and my host family was extremely generous with me, taking me out for traditional Bolivian meals and showing me around the city. 

What has been the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of my trip was the relationship I built with my host family. They truly feel like family to me and I have continued to keep in touch with them after my return home. The children at the orphanage will always have a place in my heart. I wish I could return to Bolivia at any given moment just to see their faces.

What has been a volunteer mean to you (versus just visiting as a tourist)?

Being a volunteer allows you to experience the culture and local life of a country in a way you never could as simply a tourist. By volunteering I am able to live with a host family and experience firsthand the day to day routines and what goes on normally in the lives of locals. Aside from experiencing the local culture, being a volunteer allows you to see beyond the tourist sites. You develop a better understanding of all aspects of the country, the positive and the negative. You build relationships with locals and have more fulfilling memories that last you a lifetime. 

How has this experience affected you?

This experience has had a positive impact on me. I am now more educated about a country that I had no previous knowledge about. It has given me a second family and a place to visit hopefully in future years.

What will you most remember about Bolivia as a country?

I will remember it’s vibrant culture, the lively music and the beautiful children so full of life. 

What would you say to others thinking about taking part in a volunteer project?

I would highly recommend volunteering. Being able to work with locals and help out in the community gives you an experience unlike any other.

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