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Merel, EU AID Volunteers in Bolivia

As part of the Volunteering for Social Care (MDPL2) project, Merel is currently deployed in Bolivia in the Munasim Kullakita Foundation for a period of 7 months. She talks about her experience as EU Aid Volunteer…

“I arrived to La Paz the first of May, 2022. To be honest, I had little expectations, as Bolivia is not the most well-known country in Latin America. But that actually gave me a lot of joy, it would be a true adventure. Munasim Kullakita invited me with open arms into their international protection department and we got right to business.

I think it was my third week here, when my supervisor told me: in an hour you will be presenting to INTERPOL Bolivia about masculinity, ok? Don’t worry, it´s just a little talk. Five minutes before leaving, she asked me whether I had my presentation ready, something I had not understood I needed to have. It was just going to be a little talk, right?

About three hours later, I walked out of INTERPOL in my Nikes, a big sweater and baggy jeans, feeling a little ashamed that that was the way I presented to such an audience, but with a good feeling. While I had felt completely unprepared, I had managed to give a workshop about masculinity to about forty men in uniform, who didn’t really understand why it was a little weird that there had been exactly one woman in the room: me.

After this experience I learned that I would often be thrown into situations unfamiliar to me. While in the beginning it was quite scary for me, it led to beautiful encounters with very different groups. Munasim gives a lot of freedom to discover in which part of the organization you would like to work and with that helps to develop your capacities in this field. For me, this meant working with mostly the Bolivian police force and Venezuelan migrants. I gave more or less the same workshops to these groups, about subjects that they (might) get confronted with, such as human trafficking and smuggling, PTSD, emotional intelligence, sexual commercial violence, etc. While the groups are completely different in nature, it was very necessary to approach these subjects with both groups. They have a very different view on the subject, and exactly because of that, in the end the discussions were all the more fruitful. I could make cross-references to what the group of police officers had said and with that create discussions on whether that viewpoint made sense for the migrants, for example. Also, the experiences of the migrants made the police officers realize their textbook realities didn’t always tell the whole story.

Obviously, the style of the presentations differed between the groups. It led to police men asking me for me presentations, because they wanted to show their family this perspective on migration and everything it comes along with, and to beautiful friendships with the migrant population, who are genuinely happy to see me when I walk through the door (which is completely mutual) and who taught me to cook Venezuelan food – a very welcome extra, as their food is delicious!

For now, I have a little over 2 months left in Bolivia, still learning new things every day. For anyone who is wondering whether Munasim Kullakita will be a good fit for them, I am sure it will. For me, exactly because it is a smaller, more local NGO, you get dragged into the field from day one and basically never leave it, as a social worker, that was exactly what I wanted. I feel lucky to be here and wish the coming volunteers the same, but I have no doubt they will feel the same way I do, especially if you get to work in my team of international protection! 😉 ”