Name: Alexis Lambert
From: Leesburg, VA
School: Shenandoah University
I now consider myself a bit of a Cruceña
meaning a citizen of Santa Cruz, Bolivia. I find myself munching on
Salteñas, grumbling about the change in climate, and excited about soccer
games. Upon completion of my volunteer program I will have lived and
volunteered full time in Santa Cruz for 11 months, or 330 days, or
hundreds and hundreds of service hours. To explain why I am living
abroad in sunny, beautiful Bolivia we have to go back…
When I was eight years old my dad was diagnosed
with melanoma and given two months to live. Miraculously he fought
for two years before ultimately losing his battle with cancer.
However, my father passing away changed me in some ways for the
better. It has made me empathetical to anyone in similar situations.
A blessing brought out of heartbreak. The loss of my father instilled
in me a need to help – a need to heal… an I am doing just that.
I am with a one-year volunteer organization, and I work for a
children’s home. We have thirty wonderful children – all of whom
have been abused, neglected or abandoned. My placement was very
intentional: I knew I wanted to work with at risk children because
the kids and I share a bond. We have gaps in our lives where parents
I am here as a health volunteer. I make weekly medicine schedules,
assist our doctor, teach health lessons, and comb out lice. A lot of
lice. No seriously, a lot of lice. The importance of health has sunk
in during my time here. My kids have to be healthy to go to school,
to play in the park, to pursue their hobbies. Health is vital in
The biggest struggle present in my job is Bolivian cultural norms, and
simply the absence of knowledge. Bolivians avoid medications when
they can, and sometimes have practices contrary to healing. For
example, some of my coworkers have tried to keep expired medications,
and lice were removed by soaking the kids heads in rubbing alcohol.
My role is complicated at times, because I have to care for the
children while respecting and teaching my coworkers.
However, my most rewarding experiences have come from these challenges. My
coworkers are very open to new ideas and listen when I teach them and
the children. We have staff meetings every Monday and I occasionally
teach a small lesson to my coworkers relevant to a problem I have
seen. Recently I talked about the difference between bacteria and
viruses and how to use antivirals and antibiotics correctly.
I will be returning to university for my bachelor’s degree in
nursing. I hope to continue my medical service abroad and teach the
basics of health. I plan on returning to South America, with scrubs
and stethoscope in hand. After all isn’t teaching a man to fish
better than giving him fish?