Tales of a Microfinance Intern – Cochabamba, Bolivia (Part VII)

(This series was originally written in email form during the summer of 2009.  Here it is finally in blog format.)

Sunday, July 26, 2009 at 1:22pm ·

Only one more week to go in Bolivia, and I feel like there is still so much left to see and do. This place has so much to offer those that are truly willing to learn. I’ve learned so much. Not only about development and microfinance, but also about organizational communication, marketing, and professionalism. And that’s just what I’ve learned at work!

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The Marketing Plan that I’ve been working on for Pro Mujer is coming along nicely. Last week we finally bought the sound system for the promotional team to use at community events, and the megaphone for when they are out in the neighborhoods trying to spread the word about Pro Mujer to potential clients. The regional director was very excited when we showed up back at the office with all the new electronics equipment. There was an amplifier, speakers, a microphone, a CD/DVD player, and a mess of cables to connect it all. As soon as we walked in the door, all the men in the office instantly materialized and wanted to “make sure everything worked”. After tinkering with the electronics for awhile (of course no one read any of the manuals), the beautiful sound of a Pro Mujer commercial blasted through the office. I’ll admit, that put a pretty big smile on my face. Later that week, the promotions team used the megaphone to attract people to an information session out in the field, and one of the other interns said that it was one of the biggest turnouts she’s ever seen. I’m happy that the marketing materials are being put to good use, and hope that Pro Mujer can use them to help more women gain access to microfinance.

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Friday and Saturday I got to participate in an 18-hour workshop about group leadership. Most of the participants in the workshop were Credit Assistants that lead the communal association meetings. Part of their leadership role is to provide the clients with business training sessions to help them be more successful. During the workshop we learned about adult learning styles and the importance of active participation to enhance learning and comprehension of concepts. It was fun to get to know the other 20 participants better through group building activities.

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This week we also had a huge birthday party in the Pro Mujer parking lot for the regional director. There was a mariachi band, and dancing, and dinner. Very fun. I’m sad that I am leaving now that I am finally getting to know my colleagues.

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Lunch conversations with my host family have shed some light on important issues in Bolivian society, such as migration. There are approximately 10 million Bolivians on the planet, and about 2 million of them live outside of Bolivia. This unusual diaspora has created not only pockets of Bolivians throughout the world (Buenos Aires, Barcelona, and Arlington, VA to name a few), but various challenges have also arisen within Bolivian society.

My host brother blames the bad behavior of Bolivian children on the fact that a lot of their parents are working overseas, leaving them without authority figures, role models, or discipline. My host mother blames migration for the disintegration of the nuclear family and the lax morals of those that move abroad.

You should have heard the scandal when my 42 year old host cousin moved in with her boyfriend in Barcelona. It was outrageous. The words “sin” and “moral failure” were thrown around more than once. This poor cousin has gotten so much grief from the entire family, but if she had just up and married him everybody would be so proud of her. I am finding that logic is not always useful in Bolivia, and that may apply to life as well.

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