This summer I have the opportunity to intern with CECAM Bolivia and to work on the Cochabamba Pedal Project. CECAM Bolivia is a non-profit organization dedicated to implementing sustainable projects in order to support disadvantaged communities in suburban and rural areas. The goal of the Cochabamba Pedal Project is to promote environmental sustainability while providing underprivileged persons with a means of generating revenue by converting used bikes into pedal powered machines or “bicimaquinas”. These machines can be rented out for profit or used to accelerate typically long and tiresome processes such as grinding corn or making soap. The ultimate goal of CECAM is to open a BiciCafe that would allow the organization to be self-sufficient.
The cultural background and Spanish-speaking skills I have acquired as a Hispanic Studies major have been imperative in my work with CECAM. Every project aims to cater to the necessities of rural and suburban people while upholding the uttermost respect for their local customs and beliefs. Bicimaquinas are created and introduced with this principle in mind. Spanish, on the other hand, has been particularly useful during workshops in which I work with my colleague, a native speaker, to promote biking and inform about its environmental and health benefits. Furthermore, the theoretical concepts concerning social justice I learned as a McGuillyCuddy-Louge Fellow have materialized in my daily routine.
My experiences outside of the classroom, however, have enabled me to fully comprehend the intricacies of social injustices and how to reconcile my beliefs and the reality of systematic poverty. Through the Appalachia Service Trip and Saint Joseph’s Project, I have also been encouraged to consider what service means to me personally and how my understanding of accompaniment relates to that of the Jesuit teachings. Working in the poorest country in South America, I have taken up the quest of searching for answers in daily observations and reflection.
Written by Marlon Dos Santos, BC Class of 2018