The unforgiving Bolivian sun bakes Quillacollo into a dusty landscape year-round, resulting in near suffocating atmospheric sediment pollution near the roads and a dearth of vegetation. The desolate physical terrain of Quillacollo, a small town located on the outskirts of Cochabamba, is symbolic of most children’s future prospects as their education seldom reaches an undergraduate level. The stifling clouds of dust that trail every trufi or car that passes through the town, while metaphorically applicable to most children, are particularly appropriate for female students. In a country where a woman dies every three days due to gender-based violence, and 53% of Bolivian women report domestic violence at the hands of their partner, it is understandable that women feel somewhat suffocated by the Bolivian male culture of machismo.
CECAM Bolivia aims to develop the local economy, enhance educational opportunities, and combat problems of gender inequality all while accentuating environmental sustainability. As a miniscule NGO with a permanent staff of two, CECAM undertakes small projects that endeavor to positively impact the most vulnerable segments of the Bolivian population, either through the implementation of basic eco-technologies, “bicimaquinas” or bike machines, and educational or training workshops to different demographics.
As a rising junior who so far has been fulfilling his core requirements, I cannot say I have acquired many directly applicable skills through my education at Boston College. However, through exposure to Jesuit ideals, I have been able to develop my life philosophy, one that values an eclectic education and utilizing personal skills for the benefit of others. “Men and women for others” is an ideal that pervades my work ethic and my approach to CECAM’s work, something that allows me to be a motivated and effective worker.
Written by Jeewoong Oh, BC Class of 2018