Growing Up Together – Students Help Children in South America
Aquisito e.V. wants to offer children a future with their volunteer work and fundraising.Copyright: Mery Torrico
They all share the desire to give children in Bolivia a happier childhood: This is why students of RWTH and other universities are doing voluntary work at Aquisito e.V. They founded the association in 2020, yet the German-Bolivian cooperation has already been alive for several years. RWTH Professor Frank Thomas Piller from the Department of Finance, in particular Technology and Innovation Management, assumed patronage of the project. The name “Aquisito” colloquially means "here" in Spanish and is intended to imply that the problems are tackled locally and specifically.
22-year-old Antonia Tröll initiated Aquisito. She is in her seventh semester of a Bachelor's in Mechanical Engineering. Tröll already worked as a volunteer in Bolivia in 2017 and describes her twelve months there as "the best time of my life". With her stories, she was able to inspire friends and fellow students at RWTH and other universities. Finally, in May 2020, they founded the association, with Tröll as its chair. Jan-David Fischbach takes care of the IT and technical matters of the association. "At Aquisito, I learned how much one person can accomplish. And how much more when a group works together," says the 22-year-old, who is enrolled in the seventh semester of a Bachelor's in Electrical Engineering.
Parents hardly have any time for their children
Around 11 million people live in Bolivia, which is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. The majority of the population is of indigenous origin and the country maintains its cultural diversity to this day. In each region, at least one of the 36 local indigenous languages is considered an official language in addition to Spanish.
In Ushpa Ushpa, in Central Bolivia, inhabitants live in small brick houses at an altitude of 2,560 meters and their drinking water supply often has to come from tank trucks. Families in this region – about ten kilometers south of the large city of Cochabamba with its 650,000 inhabitants – only have a low income to live off. Many women work from dawn until late at night in the markets and streets, while the men try to earn money as day laborers. Parents therefore hardly find time for their children, who subsequently receive little affection, little support with their homework, and often have to look after their younger siblings. There is also no money for a healthy and balanced diet. However, most children in Bolivia are considered to be highly motivated and aware of the importance of education to improve their living conditions.
CADSE Youth Center offers a safe space
Since 2017, the local educator Mery Torrico has been supporting the children and young people in the CADSE project together with social workers, students, and volunteers in Ushpa Ushpa. The project name is the Spanish acronym for "Center for the Support of Social and Educational Development". In sports, art, or English lessons, the children learn values such as team spirit, self-confidence, and tolerance, for which there is no time at school. From her own experience, Torrico knows the concerns and needs of the children who are growing up. "CADSE’s work is not affiliated with a religious or political organization. Together we develop concepts for the funding and realization of projects. Donations make education, healthy food, learning, and leisure possible," says Tröll.
Bolivia has an eight-year compulsory schooling program but class sizes at state schools are very large and there is little time for individual support. In the project, therefore, the helpers support each child with their homework and work with them on any weak points. They also contact parents and schools if there are any problems. With artistic activities, the children learn to work independently and to develop their own ideas. Sustainability is a key value they are taught, so they use plastic bags and lids for arts and crafts. Sport promotes team spirit and at the same time teaches children to be considerate of one another. English as a foreign language, computer skills, and knowledge of healthy nutrition are also part of the concept. At CADSE, young people have a contact person on the topics of sexuality, family problems, or violence in relationships.
Volunteers, donations, and sponsors are welcome!
"I am pleased to be the patron of an association that gets to the root of problems and additionally promotes intercultural exchange," says Professor Piller. "For two years now, I have been accompanying Antonia Tröll and Jan-David Fischbach as a liaison lecturer of the German National Academic Foundation. When they told me about their idea, I was thrilled and therefore happy to support student involvement in the project."
The students of Aquisito help with volunteer stays in Bolivia. Together with Mery Torrico they organize accommodation, provide advice on visa issues, and prepare volunteers for an exciting time. Volunteers should have at least three months for the stay.
Until the beginning of January, Aquisito is selling sustainable socks in cooperation with the fundraising organization "Fundmate.com". Four euros of each pair sold will be donated to Bolivia. Students who would like to get involved in the association are very welcome to take part. Support as a sponsor and all donations are also helpful.
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Source: Press and Communications