How much time do you give up purely for the good of others? A few hours a week? Maybe a couple of days a year? This isn’t a judgmental thing – in today’s busy world with all the financial and social demands placed on people, finding enough time for yourself is hard enough, let alone others – the point is that for most people, whatever they manage to give they would like to give more. And most of us can’t find any time at all.
Volunteering, in whatever form it takes, is an incredibly selfless and noble thing to do, and it’s difficult to have anything but admiration for those who are so giving of their time to others. So when our producer Florrie asked for a three month sabbatical to go and volunteer in Bolivia for three months we pretty much set to work on the pedestal we were going to put her on straight away. Three months! In a poor country; 4,000 miles from home; for no money. What’s not to like?
Florrie went to South America to work with an organisation called Sustainable Bolivia. They place volunteer students and professionals from all over the world with charities and institutions around Cochabamba (one of Bolivia’s poorest areas) that will most benefit from their skills, and one of the charities our Florrie was involved with was CAICC Bolivia. They deal with the unbelievably high number of children who are growing up in prison – innocent victims in a war on drugs that has seen their parents incarcerated, and poverty that means they can’t afford to live anywhere else. CAICC aims to bring some normality to these kids’ lives and help them with their understanding of themselves, their situation and the wider world around them. By bringing in volunteers like Florrie they also try to give them experiences that would otherwise be unavailable to them.
Florrie’s placement was perfect. She was paired with a wonderful young animator from London called Kim Alexander and together they ran workshops where the kids learned how to make videos and basic animation, and how to use storytelling as a way of expressing themselves. Based on the film that came back it’s fair to say that Florrie and Kim did a wonderful job and the kids clearly loved it. In a part of the world that most of us will never see and that – without any particular malice – nobody really cares about, one of our number helped to develop both skills and hope amongst children who have had a tough start in life, and the only thing she wants in return is for more people to do the same.
Florrie’s pedestal is ready, and whilst we’d be proud to put her on it she’s not stepping up – maybe it’s time a few more of us did.