Issue - April 2009

April 2009


In this issue, Dylan Rudloff researches the importance and benefits of English language; Christina Moore brings us a story of struggle and conquest; New Experiences Away from Home from Miguel Angel Ajhuacho from San Simon University; Nail designs are the new art in the streets of Cochabamba; at the end of this edition is Walter Sanchez with Religious passages in the more...

April 2009

New Experiences Away from Home

Miguel Angel Ajhuacho Lopez tells us about his brief experience in a special needs summer camp in the United States

Miguel Angel Ajhuacho Lopez
Universidad Mayor de San Simón
Cochabamba , Bolivia

After flying for more than 8 hours from La Paz, Bolivia, to the United States, I was tired when I got to New York. Catching a train at Grand Central, I was ready to go to Camp Anne, which is located about 2 hours from New York City, and set on a beautiful site in the eastern part of the New York State near the Massachusetts border.

By having the chance to work as a camp counselor at a special needs camp, I was excited to get to know more about this field in another country. Camp Anne provides an opportunity for individuals who are developmentally disabled to experience a summer filled with fun, learning, and making new friends in a countryside setting. At the same time it provides an opportunity for the staff to develop or enhance existing knowledge and skills in working with people with developmental handicap disabilities, and to develop an awareness towards alternative and creative approaches in our interactions with this population. Over 590 campers attended Camp Anne, with approximately 112 adults (21-65 years old) and adolescents (13-21 years old) in each of the four thirteen sessions. Also, there was a one week long session for approximately 80 young children (5-12 years old).

About 90% of those working at the camp came from a wide variety of countries all around the world, such as Bolivia, USA, England, Wales, Russia, India, Korea, China, South Africa, Ukraine, Brazil, Ireland, Scotland, etc. Approximately, 70% of the staff spoke English as their first language, so as a linguistics student, I had three months to practice my English and some other languages, too.

Before starting our first session, we had one week of orientation. The different procedures, rules and regulations when working and living at camp were important in order to avoid problems and misunderstandings. During those days, I got to know my roommates and other staff in the different workshops. In addition, we heard about the planned activities in different areas: arts and crafts, music/dance, nature, swimming, boating and sports.

When the campers got to camp, everybody had already received a profile about his or her camper with some remarkable information beforehand. The first session was the hardest one, because for some, it was their first time working with special needs. It took some time to get used to the different demands of my campers requirements such as allergies, the medication time of each one, or taking care with their food because some of them needed to be chopped, cut, pureed or prepared specially in the kitchen. Also, I had to consider the level of comprehension of each one; the level of mobility that might be independent or with the use of a walker, cane or a wheelchair; if a camper may be independent or need full toileting and showering assistance; the extra care that campers with severe conditions needed, and the aggression of some of them that took some counselors to the health center or the hospital. During those days, I realized that our work was more a mental than a physical challenge for the amount of stress on us and the short one hour break per day.

I was interested in learning about other countries, and English was the way to exchange and assimilate new cultures in order to broaden my horizons. It was nice to know what other people knew about Bolivia, and how interested they were to know more about it. Furthermore, I and some counselors were interested in languages, and Spanish was not an exception because of the large Spanish-speaking communities in the US. Also, the different English accents I heard made me realize the importance of being in touch with other English speaking countries around the world.

There are some other interesting aspects that drew my attention. In some schools the students interact with special needs students that study in the same school. The streets and subway in New York are appropriate for wheelchairs; I saw children and adults with special needs in streets and some social events such as county fairs; and I met people trained in this field. By having this experience in the United States, I realized the difference in the way people see this population in Bolivia and at the same time the importance of supporting different ways that may change the way some people think towards them.

I learnt so much from this trip, but what really impacted me was how I am opening my mind to new ideas, respecting the cultural differences around me, and now have a better appreciation and understanding towards people with disabilities.

Religious passages: “La Recoleta”

Although in 1654 the city of Cochabamba was more than a century from having been founded, the Franciscan priests had just then completed the construction of a place of rest or “Recoleto” Reason whereby this area is known popularly as “La Recoleta” in the countryside of “Queru Queru”. Acknowledged as an old prehistoric settlement where ritual vessels (queru) had been found, according to tradition. It was chosen by the priests because of the following ecological and topographical features: (1) Pleasant, healthy and mild microclimate located in a high, not flooded area.

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