In April 2016 I am going to live in Bolivia for 3 months while I work as a volunteer for Biblioworks http://biblioworks.org/.
I have been interested for a while now in volunteering overseas for a charitable organisation. It has taken some time to find an organisation which promotes a cause that I am interested in and that has similar values to me. I have chosen Biblioworks for many reasons. They are an organisation that provides hands-on practical work for volunteers, they do not ask for fees from volunteers (only a small donation towards purchasing books), they have been operating for 10 years, and they are not a huge charitable “corporation”.
I feel I cannot offer much financial support to an organisation that I would like to support but what I can offer is some of my time and my knowledge. With 12 years experience in New Zealand public, school, community, and academic libraries I hope I can offer my knowledge and experience in libraries to help with Biblioworks aim to promote reading and literacy.
The other main reason that I chose Biblioworks is that it is in Bolivia!
I have been in South America twice, motorcyle touring with my partner Tony on both trips. I loved travelling in the countries we rode through – Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Bolivia. I particularly loved my interactions with the people we met in these countries. During the last trip we motorcycled from Santiago in Chile to the border of Bolivia, across the Bolivian altiplano, through Uyuni, Potosi, Sucre, and Santa Cruz to exit into Brazil in the top north eastern corner of Bolivia. This was an amazing although difficult journey. What had the greatest impression on me was that whenever things got tough (and they did get really tough at times!) the people we met went out of their way to help us. The memories I came away with were of people who have very little in the way of financial wealth but who would share what little they had. I also greatly admire what I see as a huge social conscience in Bolivian people, a drive to reduce inequality and communities that don’t hesitate to protest in order to seek change.
One of the main reasons I am returning to Bolivia is that I hope to assist in promoting reading and literacy in rural communities. I saw for myself how few resources rural areas had for schools and education but I also saw what a high value was put on learning by the people in these communities. The enthusiasm and enjoyment that I saw children have for their education is something I would like to be able to contribute to. I am also very keen to work with adult learners in their efforts to improve their own literacy levels.
So, I am going to volunteer for 3 months in 2016 at a municipal library in the small rural town of Tarabuco, about 1 1/2 hours ride by bus from the city of Sucre.