|By Admin1 (admin) on Wednesday, June 27, 2001 - 11:36 am: Edit Post|
Jimmy Knowles - volunteer in Bolivia
Q. When did you begin/finish, how long was training, how many in your group?
A. I began training towards the end of August, 2000. Training was 11 weeks long and I began my service as a volunteer on November, 17. There were 32 people in my training group, 12 of which were in my project, Natural Resources-Agroforestry/Soil Conservation.
Q. Who do you work for?
A. I am presently cooperating with an American NGO called World Neighbors.The staff in my community is composed of Bolivians that are from theregion where we are working. The organization concentrates theirefforts in two main programs, health and agriculture/natural resources.Due to my Peace Corps assignment, I am working with the naturalresources side of things.
Q. What do you do on a daily basis?
A. Time at my site is spent visiting communities and talking with the community members. Toracarì is an old Spanish pueblo where people of Spanish descent still live. A lot of the residents of the pueblo are not directly involved in agriculture, therefore, most of our work takes place in the surrounding communities where the people of more indigenous descent live. Some of the projects that we are involved in include reforestation, soil fertility improvement, terracing, improved fallows and other agriculture-related activities. Due to the slower pace of life, especially in the campo of Bolivia, a fair amount of my time is spent hanging out with the community members, reading, writing
A.d listening to music.
Q. What are some of the difficult challenges you have faced?
A. The biggest challenge that I have faced is not being able to speak Quechua. I arrived in Bolivia with a decent level of Spanish and never really felt lost with the language. But, since I live in an area where Quechua is the primary language, I am often at a loss when everyone
A.ound me is speaking Quechua. So, learning a language from scratch is something that has been difficult for me, especially a language that has no resemblance to English and also because I`m learning a third language in my second language.
Q. Where do you live, how far from work, peace corps office, from other volunteers, what are the amenities, utilities like?
A. I live in a small town called Toracarì which physically lies about 45 miles from the city of Cochabamba (which is where the closest Peace Corps Regional Office is), but by road is about 120 miles. It is located in one of the poorest regions of Bolivia in the northern part of the department of Potosì. The town is small with probably about 40 permanent residents. There is no regular transport directly to my site, but there are buses that run twice a week to a nearby town, but Toracarì is still about a two hour walk from where the bus passes by.
The organization that I work with is presently working in 25 of the surrounding communities most of which are only accessible by foot. Some of the communities are pretty isolated with the furthest ones being about a three-hour walk from Toracarì.
There are currently two other volunteers working in the general area where I am. One is in San Pedro de Buena Vista, about a five-hour walk
A.ay and the other is in Sak`ani, about a three-hour walk away.
Toracarì is a relatively isolated town that is currently without electricity, but there is currently an electrification project being realized that will bring electricity to those residents that can afford the connection fee of about $100. Most homes in town have a spigot, but the availability of water is somewhat irregular averaging about three hours a day. All of the buildings in town are made of adobe, most with roofs of clay tile or plant material, but some with corrugated aluminum. Some things are available in town from the local stores, but fruits and vegetables are a rare sight except for potatoes
A.d onions which are normally available.
Q. How do you get around?
A. Visiting communities out in the campo is done exclusively on foot. Getting to and from my site is either on foot or via public transportation (buses or big trucks). Motorcycles are a popular form of transport, but being a Peace Corps Volunteer that is not an option for me.
Q. What do you do for fun?
A. Free time is spent enjoying the natural beauty that Bolivia possesses. There is plenty of walking and exploring to be done. Time in the city is spent hanging out with other volunteers and experiencing the cultural activities that might be going on.
Q. How much do you get paid?
A. For sites in the campo, volunteers receive a monthly living allowance of $240 which turns out to be more than enough.
Q. What's been the best experience so far?
A. The best so far has been just experiencing Bolivia, the people, the culture, etc.
Q. What's been the worst experience so far?
A. Nothing has been horrible so far.
Q. Would you do it again? What would you do different?
A. Yes, I would do it again, but it`s too early to tell if I`d do anything different, but as of right now i don`t think I`d do anything differently.
Q. Any advice for UF grad thinking about Peace Corps service?...
A. Peace Corps is a wonderful experience, but it`s not for everyone. Flexibility, patience, openmindedness and all those other similar things will help you a great deal if you`re thinking about Peace Corps.
Q. What are your plans after PC service?
A. No idea.