Service in Cochabamba, Bolivia

Claire Casuccio

Service-Learning & Community Service

 

  1. My STEP Signature Project took me to Cochabamba, Bolivia, specifically, to a small school for handicapped children called CEOLI. At CEOLI, I helped teach the young kids the alphabet, worked with them on using their five different senses, and helped them perform everyday activities. I also helped feed the children and play games with them to entertain them.

 

  1. My view of myself and the world changed because of this experience in Bolivia. To start, the thoughts I had of myself transformed completely. Before this trip, I did not realize my own strength or the ability I had to help people. This trip led me to understand that I am strong enough to help many people in many different places. Despite the fact that I was only in Bolivia for a short time, I realized the power behind my actions. I was able to help the teachers and kids at CEOLI in such a short time. My two hands gave more relief and help than I ever knew was possible. I think this trip made me understand the importance and power that service can do for others. This trip showed the power I have to change the world, even if it is one person at a time. In fact, I now believe helping just one person can change the world.

My view on the world changed dramatically with this trip, as well. I realized how privileged I am to have been born and to live in the United States. In Bolivia, there is a gate to enter every house, there are many beggars on the streets, there is no fresh water, and kids play with very old, dirty toys. I came to the realization pretty quickly that the world I live in is far from the world many people outside the United States live in. They do not have the easy life that I enjoy in Ohio. However, I also saw that many people did not need the lavish material things that take up my life to be truly happy. They needed their family and friends. They value family and friends more than anything. My view of myself and the world truly changed from this trip and I realized that people will always be more valuable than any material thing.

 

  1. I do not believe I truly understood the help I was giving to the teachers and kids at CEOLI until the very moment I was leaving. There was a definite language barrier between me and almost every other person in Bolivia and at CEOLI. I only spoke English and most people in Bolivia only speak Spanish. Throughout my time at CEOLI, the teachers would tell me what to do by showing me with their actions or by pointing. Not many words were spoken between us. However, on the last day when I was leaving one of the teachers gave me a hug and then looked me in the eyes and said “thank you.” The magnitude of those two words did not hit me until I was in the taxi leaving. Despite the language barrier and the little time we had known each other, I had helped the kids and the teachers and the teachers and kids had helped me. I understood the importance of service in that moment and the fact that two hands are enough to help a situation.

An event that showed me the importance of people, rather than material things actually happened every day. It was a simple activity, but it proved to me the importance of family and friends. This event was lunch. I saw how high family is held in the eyes of the Bolivians by the fact that most families in Bolivia sit down to have a nice, long lunch as a family every single day despite their busy schedules. The parents come home from work and the kids come home from school, so that they can enjoy a nice meal together and talk about their day. In a country where material things are not as important, family and friends truly shape the life of the people.

Lastly, one relationship changed the way I saw friendship and its importance, but the relationship did not involve me. The relationship was between my site director/tour guide and a man in a small village who made pottery. My site director named Arielle took me and my roommate on an hour long drive. When we finally made it to our final destination we were at a site with two small buildings. Arielle told us that the man who lived at this site had been his long-time friend and he would show us how he made his living, which was by making pottery. This man taught us how to make a bowl and then allowed me and my roommate to make our own bowls. This man made his whole livelihood off of clay and pottery and he very openly let two people he did not know use his supplies. He was willing to help us perfect our bowls and showed us some of his special techniques. He did not have a lot, but he was so selfless in the way he welcomed me and my roommate in and allowed us to use some of his supplies. He has let Arielle bring people to his house for many years. The trust, love, and gratitude between the two of them was very special and showed me the selfless way people are when they value relationships over material things.

 

  1. Personally and professionally this transformation can be very positive for my future. Personally, I think the knowledge that I can make a difference and it will matter, despite how small the difference may be, will motivate me to continue to serve others. This transformation will make me want to serve others in my everyday life, not just when I am half way across the world. I also think this transformation will make me focus on the relationships I have in my life. I now know the power of relationships and how material things will never give you the happiness that relationships between friends and family can give you. I think my focus on family and friends will ultimately make me have a more positive outlook on life.

Professionally, this trip and the transformation it has brought me will definitely be beneficial. I am eventually going to be an accountant and with that comes an ability to form a relationship with your client. Like I have said, this trip has shown me the importance relationships are and I think I can use that knowledge to help my clients. I also will use the selflessness that I was shown in Bolivia to motivate me professionally. At most jobs, the tasks you are completing are for others, not yourself. Selflessness is always necessary when you are working and I can use this trait to be more useful and productive at work. If I am selfless, I will work harder and better because I will be willing to help someone else. My STEP Signature Project has been and will continue to be beneficial in every aspect of my life.

One thought on “Service in Cochabamba, Bolivia

  1. Claire it’s heartwarming to know that part of what you have gained from your experience in Bolivia is a desire to focus more on relationships with people as opposed to material items. I appreciate your reflections about how you do indeed have the capability to help others even though you weren’t certain of this previously.

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