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Short term volunteer energized after a year with Maryknoll in Bolivia

Maryknoll Short Term Volunteer in Bolvia

One time in Capinota
by Carrie Fuller, photos by Sean Sprague

Short term volunteer energized for the future after a year with Maryknoll in Bolivia

Catholic schoolteacher Carrie Fuller spent last year as a short-term volunteer with Maryknoll teaching at a rural boarding school Bolivia. The 33-year-old Fuller, who received a master’s degree m divinity from Harvard University, reflects on her experience in the village of Capinota and how it changed her life.

The year flew by and the longer I was in Capinota, the more I fell in love with the people and the pueblo. Bolivian music and dance and the people’s pride in their indigenous heritage energized me, and I remain impressed by how hard people work for so little.

My days in Capinota were packed, to say the least. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays I taught in a Catholic Fe y Alegria (Faith and Joy) high school instructing freshman religion, a freshman reflection and values class, and three creative expression classes, which is a mix of drama and performing arts. Since I have worked in theater and do choreography, I got involved in dance presentations and a theater festival the students and teachers participated in throughout the year.

I invited a music group from Cochabamba to give a music workshop and a theater director to give theater workshops. I absolutely loved connecting with and working with the students through the arts. I also served on the pastoral team at the school, planning retreats, Masses and other events that served the spiritual needs of the students and teachers.

On Thursdays, I headed to Ucuchi, an even more impoverished, tiny community about six miles outside of Capinota. There I taught first- through sixth-grade religion in their local Fe y Alegria elementary school. Finally, on Wednesdays and occasionally Saturdays, I volunteered at the Maryknoll mission center in Cochabamba, where I had studied Spanish before my volunteer service. I was part of a team that designed and led leadershjp workshops for Catholic youth.

Every night I crashed into my bed completely exhausted. But, I thanked God for the opportunity to serve an amazing, beautiful group of people and be welcomed into the community in such a sincere and warm way. Although very busy, I had only to breathe in the fresh mountain air or revel at the star-filled sky at night to remember how truly blessed I was to be there.

Although my commitment as a short-term volunteer with Maryknoll missioners has come to an end, I will take my experience with me wherever I go and already it has shaped my life in new ways. This year, for the first time in 14 years, I will be living in my hometown of Ocala, Fla., where I will be teaching Spanish and religion at Trinity Catholic High School. Speaking Spanish has opened up new worlds for me and allowed me to form beautiful friendships as well as understand more deeply my own Latin American roots-the Cuban and Nicaraguan heritage of my mother’s side of the family. As I weave my missionary experience into both my religion and Spanish classes, I hope to offer new perspectives to my students about the inequalities of the world as well as the beauty and insights of other cultures.

How the Holy Spirit continues to move and surprise me! After I decided to stay in Florida, the pastor of my parish, Blessed Trinity, approached me to discuss the parish’s mission school in Uganda. I couldn’t get over how many similar challenges the schools, teachers and children face in both Uganda and Bolivia. To make a long story short, this past summer my pastor, two other volunteers and I went to Nalweyo, Uganda, for five and a half weeks to assist with the school and religious education in the parish.

I stay in touch with some of the teachers in Capinota via phone and e-mail and helped buy jerseys for my former homeroom class. My friends and students in Bolivia remain so close to my heart that it’s hard for me to go a day without starting a sentence with, “In Bolivia . .. ” or “One time in Capinota … ”

As l took a final walk around Capinota to bid farewell, I realized through the hugs and tears of my neighbors and friends, how much a part of the community I had become in such a short time.

NOTES:

Maryknoll kin As a Maryknoll short-term volunteer, Carrie Fuller served with Maryknoll Brother Lawrence Kenning, who is a mentor to students at a boarding school in rural Bolivia.

Extra help Carrie Fuller, right in photo, has the full attention of students in a tutoring session at a high school in rural Bolivia, where she taughtfora year as a Maryknoll short-term volunteer.