Keep on Pedaling: CECAM’s Struggle to Become Self-Sustaining

My internship at CECAM Bolivia has been valuable in exploring career interests as it has exposed me to the inner workings of and challenges faced by nonprofit organizations. CECAM is a small NGO dedicated to ameliorating community conditions in rural Bolivia through the implementation of appropriate, environmentally friendly technologies. I was given the task of organizing fundraisers for both projects CECAM was undertaking at the time.

While gathering pertinent information for the fundraisers, I was surprised by the lack of preparation for large-scale projects. This required me to consult the permanent staff on matters such as future intern requirements, adequate market research and proof of concept, and recording specific statistics that were necessary before fundraising efforts were even defensible.

This experience has allowed me to polish my career goals. Although I have become slightly disillusioned with idealistic NGOs, I still wish to be knowledgeable on matters affecting organizations attempting to effect positive changes. Thus, I am now leaning more towards consulting as a career path, one that will enable me to help many different organizations and maximize how many people I can help in the future.

If I learned one thing from my internship, it was during the many conversations I had with Alex, the national director of Sustainable Bolivia, discussing CECAM’s overall situation. I came to acknowledge the harsh reality that, unfortunately for my visionary bosses, good intentions and passion alone do not necessarily result in success in the realm of NGOs. It takes an enormous amount of planning, preparation, and determination to follow through with the whole arduous process of effectively helping others. However, it would not be fun or worthwhile if it was easy, and the arduous process is one I look forward to refining through my future endeavors.

Written by Jeewoong Oh, BC Class of 2018

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Degraining Corn, Making Soap, and Preventing Domestic Violence

IMG_0429The 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