Hi, I’m Judith. I spent my year abroad in Bolivia. Before I went away, I got in touch with a Quaker NGO, because my dissertation research was about Quakers in Bolivia. The Bolivia Quaker Education Fund (BQEF) are an educational NGO and my first 4 months were spent in the small town of Sorata, about 3-4 hours from La Paz (it depends on how fast your bus driver goes!) teaching in a high school there.
I lived in an internado, boarding house, for students who live in villages in the mountains too far from Sorata to come in daily. BQEF helps fund and run this internado. They are a joint USA and Bolivia NGO, though much of the fundraising comes from the USA and the UK.
Surprisingly, I enjoyed living with 20 teenagers and the house-parents who have six children, two of which still live in the internado and they care for their 5 year old granddaughter, Valeria too. I enjoyed my time in Sorata immensely: the kids were great, the scenery was stunning and I experienced four months with no rain (a big change from Liverpool!).
I went to Peru for Christmas and stayed with a previous host family, which was lovely. In February, I came back to Bolivia, this time I decided to stay in La Paz to focus on my dissertation work. I stayed with Bernabé’s family. He is the head of the BQEF office in La Paz. I thoroughly enjoyed living with him and his family – three of his children have spouses and children of their own who also live around the same patio in La Paz. I went to various churches with becarios, scholarship students, who receive sponsorship from BQEF to help them through their studies. After an intense few months of church-going and interviewing I felt I had enough research to write my dissertation.
I spent the remaining time travelling around Bolivia: from Rurrenabaque: the jungle and las Pampas, wetlands in the north to Uyuni and the salt flats in the south. Bolivia has so much to offer, and of course there is the world’s most dangerous road if you are brave enough to try it!