6,000 miles to Bolivia

By - Wednesday 17th July, 2013

Chris Gaisie, currently in Bolivia, explains the global impact young and old Croydonians alike can have

The team, before departure.

On July 7th 2013 I, along with thirteen other eager volunteers aged 18-25, travelled roughly 6,000 miles to Cochabamba, Bolivia, where we’ll be staying for the next ten weeks. This is far from an extended holiday though; as part of the ICS Tearfund scheme, we’re working alongside local charities to make a difference where it’s greatly needed. The two particular charities we’re working with are Mosoj Yan and Oeser. Mosoj Yan is a project that works with teenagers who live and/or work on the streets of Cochabamba. Oeser runs an orphanage, school, and HIV prevention program in the north of the city. The projects will require a lot of help and dedication, but why send a group of people from Croydon?

One unique aspect of our particular group is that we have all worked with each other before. Although we were individually assessed, we entered the scheme as a handful of youth leaders and leaders-in-training from Croydon-based youth charity, Reachin’ Higher. At Reachin’ Higher we’re passionate about engaging young people to raise their aspirations through mentoring, creative arts, sports, in-school work, and more. While Bolivia is undoubtedly a massive cultural shift, our hope is to bring our same enthusiasm and skill set to help change lives in another setting. By no means do we have all the answers and we’re here to learn too, but we’re up for the challenge! Team member Vogue, puts it best as “an opportunity to change others’ lives while changing my own perspective on life.”

There’s been much debate in recent years on the effectiveness of overseas volunteering, and it’s an important question to ask. After all, if this is just an exercise in making ourselves feel good, what’s the point? Much more than that, it is an opportunity to take responsibility for the welfare of our global brothers and sisters. Earlier this year, Leonie, another volunteer at Reachin’ Higher, went on this same volunteering placement in Bolivia with a group of people she had never met before. When she returned the passion she had for the overseas work was undeniable. She had seen firsthand the difference that can be made by everyday citizens who shake off the comfort of normal routine. Furthermore it’s great to see her new found passion wasn’t left in Bolivia; since returning Leonie has inspired us to go out and do the same. Not only that, but she was also involved in the recent Enough Food IF campaign. The ripple effect of overseas volunteering is evident to see. How amazing would it be to see Croydon citizens, young and old, stirred up to take a stand against global injustice?

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After months of fundraising, be it through comedy nights, bike rides, bag-packing, and yes, even beard growing, we’re finally setting foot on Bolivian soil to make a difference where possible. If you’d like to stay updated on our journey, then you can subscribe to our group blog. Wish us luck!

Chris Gaisie

Chris Gaisie

Having recently finished his degree studying Philosophy and Film at UEA, Chris decided to head back to home-sweet-home, Croydon. Currently a youth worker in Croydon, he spends his days doing everything from mentoring to teaching how to rap. Music is one of his biggest passions and he can often be found performing for a crowd.

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