April 3, 2005: Headlines: COS - Bolivia: The Delaware County Times: Kerry Ambrose lives in a small pueblo in Bolivia. My house has running water but no shower so we bathe via buckets

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Bolivia: Peace Corps Bolivia : The Peace Corps in Bolivia: April 3, 2005: Headlines: COS - Bolivia: The Delaware County Times: Kerry Ambrose lives in a small pueblo in Bolivia. My house has running water but no shower so we bathe via buckets

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Kerry Ambrose lives in a small pueblo in Bolivia. My house has running water but no shower so we bathe via buckets

Kerry Ambrose lives in a small pueblo in Bolivia. My house has running water but no shower so we bathe via buckets

Kerry Ambrose lives in a small pueblo in Bolivia. My house has running water but no shower so we bathe via buckets

Opinion: Serving Peace Corps means making a difference
By PCV KERRY AMBROSE, Times Guest Columnist

I live in a small pueblo in Bolivia. My house has running water but no shower so we bathe via buckets. I consider myself lucky, though, as some of my friends only have water for a few hours a day, if that.

The family I live with sells chickens. I see the chickens before they are killed. I also watch the grandmother of my house wash piles of chicken claws in a bucket in order to make her delicacy -- chicken foot soup.

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My family hand-washes its clothes every other day. I still have not mastered the art completely and often the children laugh good-naturedly. My family happens to have a TV in one of its rooms. Most families do not. Most families have a small room that serves as the living room, bedroom, and kitchen. Oftentimes the floor is packed dirt and the roof is thatched.

My favorite part of my day is after waking up. I heat water on our stove and make mate, a type of tea served here. My favorites are manzanilla, which is chamomile, as well as cocoa leaf mate, which is supposedly good for the stomach.

I sit on the steps of our house in the chill morning light with the steaming hot cup of mate in my hands as I look out on into the distance. I live in the altiplano, which is a flat plain above the tree line. It stretches for miles in all directions and looks like a vast sea of earth striving to meet the unreachable horizon.

The wind is harsh as there is no protection from it and for the most part the soil is rocky and hard. Many of the people here depend on the mines, but there are also farmers and herders. All are difficult livelihoods in such an unforgiving place. The altiplano, though, has a stark and desolate beauty to it that creeps in to haunt the soul. It’s untouched in many places and is wild and untamed in a way that I imagine the prairie lands of the U.S. were before the settlers.

I am a volunteer in the Peace Corps, which is why I am living here. I mainly work in the schools teaching environmental education and health classes. This year though I am also helping teach physical education from kindergarten through sixth and am hoping to start a basketball intramural league and maybe an art mural club.

The children are so motivated. Everyday I look into their bright eager eyes and smiling faces and cannot help but become inundated with love. I have so much hope for all these children, these brilliant minds waiting to blossom, but I know that the people of this town, this country are poor. Many of the girls see no future beyond having seven or eight children to help with the farm work, the mortality rate here is as high as almost 50 percent in some areas so the birth of many children guarantees the survival of a few.

The streets of the cities are not lined with gold, but rather with funeral parlors displaying miniature coffins. My heart breaks knowing some of these children I see will go on to sniff glue, become alcoholics, and abuse their wives because these are the examples they know and see. I am determined to help in what little way I can to instill a sense of self-esteem. They may be poor in material objects, but they are not poor in spirit.

I have been here already for a year. Peace Corps volunteers make the commitment to serve for 27 months. When the tragedy of Sept. 11 happened, I personally made the decision to join after I finished college. Many people of the world view America with contempt. I wanted to do what I could to make the most out of the privileges my citizenship automatically bestowed upon me.

I came to Bolivia with idealistic notions that I could somehow change the world. I still hope to make a difference each day I walk hand in hand with a small child looking up at me with eyes so wide. However, I have been humbled in that I realize by simply living here I have learned more this past year about myself, people, and the world then I could have possibly envisioned or ever repay, although I intend to try.

Kerry Ambrose is the daughter of Pamela Ambrose and Gary Pattinson, and a graduate of Garnet Valley High School. She was sworn in as a Peace Corps volunteer on April 7, 2004. Learn more about this organization by visiting www.peacecorps.gov or if interested in donating supplies for a future project or school contact Kerry at ambrose81@comcast.net

©The Daily Times 2005

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Story Source: The Delaware County Times

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Bolivia



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