Bo’living in Cochabamba

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Juliet Baires, International Business ’20

Before coming to Cochabamba, I constantly told myself, my peers, Professor Dana, my friends and family that I had no expectations for Bolivia. I came to this new country with only the knowledge learned from class, an open mind, and excitement to begin my journey. As I approach week 5 and establish myself here in Bolivia, I am learning that immersing myself in a different culture has been both challenging and inspiring. I encountered a few unexpected ordeals the first three weeks: my health, navigating transportation, adapting to my new host nonprofit organization, host family and the food. I got sick in all types of ways: my eye, stomach, weight loss, and getting the flu was a challenge the first few weeks.

My host family is comprised of three generations: nine people including myself, two cats, and two dogs. I thought I would get home sick since I am very family-oriented, however, my host family is incredibly similar to my family at home: traditional. The dynamic of living with three generations in a household is interesting because I have been able to witness the various different perspectives politically and socially across the family. The middle-child, Jamil, hosted a talent show where Anahi, the youngest, performed a poetry piece where she won first place. Both are such extraordinary host sisters. The younger girls remind me of how I acted when I was their age. They’re so vivacious, sassy divas.

My work organization is called Pro Mujer, a nonprofit that recognizes that in order to develop a community of agents of change, they must provide their clients with comprehensive services to ensure long lasting sustainable impact for women and families in Cochabamba, Bolivia. I had a week to explore the various aspects of my organization. Then I designed my project to build supportive capacity trainings for women, while increasing capacity building opportunities for current and future clients. The regional director, regional finance director, the Pro Mujer staff, and the clients all have contributed to such an amazing first internship experience. Each person I have interacted with has been created a mutual and reciprocal learning experience. I have been able to learn how these business women have worked to get to where they are: their struggles and their strengths. They have given me wise advice that has helped me explore my own future aspirations. Interacting, engaging, and speaking with the clients and visiting the five locations of Pro Mujer across Cochabamba has exposed me to the way people live here: their struggles, their successes and so much more.
With all the travels, I’ve come to love Bolivia. So far, I’ve been to a festival in Sucre, the mines of Potosi, and hiking in Tunari and Apote. This past weekend, we went to ToroToro, a national park in Bolivia. Never in my life would I have said, “I walked on mountains” but I did. I have never seen anything so beautiful; quite frankly I think it is more beautiful than the Grand Canyon. It was an experience that had the most breathtaking scenery. Also, it was my birthday weekend. Our entire group including the people from other universities threw me a surprise birthday party. I’ve been able to create some interesting relationships with the people in my group. We have all been able to connect with the fact that we are working towards creating sustainable change. Everyday, I see all of us making it happen for ourselves, these communities, and organizations.

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How Bolivia Is Changing My Perspective

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Natalia Caprile, Sociology and Pre-Med ’18 

Before the Privett Global Scholars program, I had never spent more than two weeks outside of the U.S. The thought of changing that through such a challenging program was daunting. However, being in Bolivia and having the opportunity to open myself up to the people here, as well as listen to their experiences, has given me an increased understanding of the world and myself.

One of my most challenging and rewarding experiences thus far has been the work I have done with my organization, Vivo en Positivo. Vivo does work surrounding HIV and AIDS (primary and secondary prevention, direct support for people living with HIV, as well as their family and loved ones, etc.) throughout Bolivia. For my project, I am focusing on primary prevention among youth in Cochabamba. To meet this end, we are going to middle and high schools in five municipalities and performing training sessions on HIV, human rights, and discrimination.

To prepare for these trainings, I conducted research, created PowerPoint presentations, and designed an informative brochure. Even with all this preparation, I felt the nerves as we went to our first training. I did not have complete confidence in my ability to talk in Spanish about such a specific topic for an hour. I sat back and listened to my coworkers lead the presentation while writing down key concepts on the board and passing other materials out to the students.

At the end of the training session, my coworker asked if there were any questions. One student raised her hand, pointed at me, and point-blank asked, “What does she think? Why hasn’t she said anything?” I could feel my heart beating, but I responded, “Sorry that I haven’t been talking a lot–I’m still working towards speaking Spanish fluently. But, for me, the most important thing is that you all know your rights and have correct information. I hope that you can talk about this amongst yourselves and with your other friends and family.” The young woman who asked the question nodded her head at me in response. I survived my first session.

The next day, I was leading training sessions on my own in a different school. Though my coworkers have been helpful and understanding while I have worked on my project, I was pushed out of my comfort zone pretty quickly. Other than learning how to lead an hour-long presentation in Spanish, I have also learned how important transparency and honesty are in doing work with communities in which you are an outsider.

When I go to schools to lead sessions, I own up to where I am from and what I am doing in this community. I touch on what I hope to bring as well as what I have learned from people and experiences here, and I encourage students to ask questions or call me out if they feel it is necessary. After multiple sessions, I have had students (mostly young women) come up to me and thank me for coming, ask me for more information, or ask if we can lead these sessions in other areas of their communities.

At the request of one of the principals from a school in which we held trainings, we have already branched out with our sessions. We held two at an organization that offers food, shelter, and activities to local children with less access to resources. After finishing the trainings there, they asked us to come back and hold more sessions.

I love doing work that allows me to have interactions with people in communities in Cochabamba. This project has given me more than just public speaking skills or technical knowledge about HIV. I have been fortunate enough to have real conversations with students who allowed me to see into parts of their lives. Some of them have told me stories that have changed the way I conceptualize things like health, family, and responsibility. Because of this, I have gained a greater understanding of others and myself on a global scale. The way I see things has shifted. There is no going back from here.

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Global Privett Scholars Summer Update

The 2017 Global Privett Scholars are spending the summer in Bolivia and Argentina working on community-based sustainable development projects. Our students are cultivating an appreciation for their responsibilities as global citizens and developing personal skills, professional competencies, and values consistent with the mission of the University of San Francisco.

Scholars in Cochabamba, Bolivia  

 Gio Paganini – CeDRUS (Centro de Desarrollo Rural y Urbano Sustentable)

“I’m really excited about meeting my host family in Bolivia. I’m from South America and can’t wait to be able to see how other countries in the continent live. Working side by side South Americans is a priceless experience.”

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Natalia Caprile – Vivo en Positivo

“I’m looking forward to meeting people in my host family and organization, and to start growing in community with them. After learning so much about the social, political, and historical contexts of Bolivia, I’m ready to jump in and start to experience life there!” 

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Juliet Baires – Pro Mujer Bolivia

“I will be working with Pro Mujer, a nonprofit organization that works to support women who are living in the conditions of socioeconomic exclusion. I am excited to be a part of a movement that supports women with their small businesses, while recognizing and including women’s values and potential, opening the door for women to have an active role in their own personal and community development.” 

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Diego Jones – Tukuy Pacha

“I’m really excited about three things: meeting my new family, working at my internship, and taking cool pictures of Bolivia. I’m really looking forward to also meet the rest of the U.S. students who will be working with the Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD) this summer.” 

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Carter Santini – Martadero

“I’m filled with both excitement and nerves. My job placement at Martadero seems like a gift from the heavens as it aligns all my interests in music, community development and public service. I’m excited to throw myself into a new place and give my all.”

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Rosa Olascoaga- Performing Life

“I am super excited to be an intern at Performing Life. I can’t wait to work with young people and to be surrounded with the beautiful culture in Bolivia.”

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Rachel Starling- Asociación Amigos del Árbol, Bosques, y Parques Nacionales

“I’m hoping to learn more about the role of community engagement in development this summer.  I’m looking forward to the challenge that working in another language presents, and I’m excited for the chance to work in my community with the issues that are important to me.”

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Kaitlin Chassagne- Caminar Con Valores

“Although I was nervous for the language barrier with my rusty Spanish skills, my host organization has done a wonderful job integrating me into their community and making me feel both needed and welcomed. I’m excited to apply my perspectives as an outsider raised in other countries and schools to their newest project focused on gender perspectives.”

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Elizabeth Spears- CeDRUS (Centro de Desarrollo Rural y Urbano Sustentable)

“I’m most excited to be in a position to learn about how the local people of Salta understand their relationship to the non-human world, or the rest of the environment. Also, I am looking forward to seeing how the relationships between people and their environment differ between a community in city of Salta, San Rafael and an indigenous community farther north in the province, Pichanal.”

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Janelle Nunez- Caminar Con Valores

“I am looking forward to putting into action everything I’ve learning in the classroom. I’m excited to participate in a cultural experience unlike any other and I look forward to all the new amazing relationships I make along the way.”