Valentines, community service, and carnival in Nor Yungas, Bolivia

Nora Harless
March 9, 2018

Feliz dia del amor from post-Carnival Bolivia! My name is Nora Harless, and I am the current fellow working at the Unidad Académica Campesina (UAC) in Carmen Pampa, Bolivia in the region of Nor Yungas. Here are a few impressions of my experience working as external relations coordinator at the UAC deep in the Andes mountains.

UAC is a community serving institution of higher learning whose goal is to empower young Bolivians to actively respond to the social, environmental, and economic needs of their families and communities. One of the facets of #UAC-CP's mission is working “comunitario,” or community service hours in production-based modules. Ranging from coffee harvesting, agricultural production, to growing swine and chickens, the students at the college reinforce their education with hands-on skill sets that will also enable them to serve the rural community in an innovative way.

National parades and traditional dances are an important part of Bolivian culture. These street parades and performances are a way for communities to share in and celebrate “la vida Boliviana” with one another, and with foreigners like me. In Bolivia, one mustn’t shy away from a good Carnival celebration. ¡Vamos pues!

One element of my work is serving as the Spanish-speaking liaison between the community of Carmen Pampa and its international partners. Some recent projects have included the building and maintenance of a sand filtration system with #engineerswithoutborders and #rotaryinternational, a medical research mission conducted by #stcatherineuniversity, and service trips through #peacework and #sienacollege. A crucial component of international development is bridging the gaps between otherwise estranged communities. Getting my hands dirty in the thick of the fieldwork makes the world feel... un poco más pequeño!

Another perk of working with both national and international organizations is #travel! Whether it be through a partnership with the #usembassylapaz , site visits with international visitors, or collecting #UAC graduate stories, I have been lucky to experience a myriad of regions across Bolivia. After all, there's nothing quite like a road trip up the world's most dangerous road in the #andesmountains!

The only way I can think to properly conclude this brief blog entry is by saying: THANK YOU. To the community members and administrators who have welcomed me with open arms - #thankyou for the countless hours of teaching and learning, through language barriers and with an openness to working alongside “su nueva amiga rubia.” The work #princetoninlatinamerica fellows do, both in Bolivia and throughout Latin America, would not be possible without the reciprocity of our partner organizations.

Por eso, les digo GRACIAS.