Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Three-year nostalgia

Girls learning about HIV at a fair put on by a Canadian NGO
Around this time of year for the past three years, I dream of Bolivia. You see, three years ago, when I was working at the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), I was given a fantastic opportunity to write a short essay about a country (from a list) that I wanted to visit to visit CIDA projects and write success stories about the projects.

After some discussion with a friend who knew Latin America quite well, I finally chose to write my piece about why I wanted to travel to Bolivia and submitted it to our branch's management team to decide who would get to go on these trips (of a lifetime, I might add). Lo and behold I came to work one day and my colleague stopped me and said "congratulations". I turned to him and said "for what?", he replied "the international mission". I ran to my cubicle, turned on my computer to find an email listing the "winners". I think I must have jumped out of my chair (several times).

Delivering rice courtesy of the World Food Programme by helicopter to local village affected by flooding
If I remember correctly I found out in very early March and I ended up leaving for South America within the second week of April. So not much planning time, but the CIDA representatives in La Paz were great and worked out a fantastic schedule for me that brought me to many different parts of the country.

Kids surrounding me at a camp for flood victims
Upon my return back to Ottawa, I had to write project success stories about my trip. All of which can now be found on the Bolivia page on CIDA's website. I just re-read these stories. They bring chills to my bones as I remember the amazing Bolivians I met on this two-week journey and how happy and resilient they were despite their daily struggles. I also was so proud of my country, for without the support of the Government of Canada and many talented Canadian NGOs, these Bolivians' lives might be drastically different. What I remember most is how proud they were of what they accomplished in part thanks to Canadian knowledge, expertise and funds.

Field of oregano
If you have a few minutes, read my stories and learn about the amazing Bolivians I met (Maria, Luisa, Flavio, Roberto, Florencia, Gregoria, amongst many, many others).

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