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I’ve been going to Friends of Bolivia events for as long as I can remember. My parents have been involved pretty much since the beginning and as a young girl I loved going to the parties, where I’d get to stay out way past my bedtime and basically spend all night running around with my friends. I didn’t even mind when my parents made me dress up in a bowler hat and pollera. Then, as I grew into a typical grumpy teenager, I decided the parties were simply not cool enough for me to go to, and for a number of years I refused to go to any events.
It was a couple of years after I graduated university that I became involved in Friends of Bolivia again. I had started a career in fundraising when the then Chair of the committee asked me to join and help out with organising events. The more I learned about the charity, the deeper I got involved. It seemed incredible to me that with just a handful of volunteers Friends of Bolivia had managed to send over £300,000 to its adopted projects in Bolivia. The charity was run on a simple basis – raise as much money as possible during the year and at the end of it, divide it between the projects. Each of these projects had been introduced to the charity by a member who had personally visited it and they ranged from care homes for elderly people, to accommodation and care for young people with special needs.
Now, a few years later, I’ve become chair of the charity’s committee and it sometimes feels like I get much more from Friends of Bolivia than I put back in. Yes, it takes up a lot of time - 5 hour committee meetings are not unheard of, and there have been lengthy discussions about the best way to chop the tomatoes for a sarza - but in return I get to practice my Spanish and keep in touch with my Bolivian heritage –something that as I grow older is becoming increasingly important to me. Plus, it’s all for a good cause. I’ve been able to visit a couple of the projects we support in Bolivia in recent years and let me tell you, one visit to an old people’s home where 10 nuns care night and day for nearly 100 elderly people, the majority of whom have dementia, is more than enough make all the effort worthwhile!