“Be the Change, Be Bolivia”

Madeleine Ramos

Madeleine Ramos

Who would ever believe that 24 hours in another country would change her life forever? I never did, but I believe it now all because of Bolivia.

First and foremost—Why Bolivia? At the very moment I applied to this trip until this very day, many people from home react with confusion or joke about how I am traveling to some country like Kenya, Somalia, or Ecuador. My answer—Why not Bolivia? The opportunity has presented itself to me so I have pursued it. Regardless of the location, I believe there are people in need, but I knew there was something different about this trip although I did not know what exactly.

After 24 hours of immersing myself here, I truly realize why Bolivia has called my name. Geographically, Bolivia is a landlocked country, which symbolizes how locked away it is from the international world thus hindering its ultimate economic growth, stability, and most importantly its mentality. I have seen it with my very own two eyes and have felt it encompass my entire heart and soul. I have lived amongst nature in its purest form, have helped serve those in need through community outreach, and have personally interacted with many who share the same worries, struggles, and pains carried throughout Bolivia. As one of the most impoverished countries in the Western Hemisphere, Bolivia represents beauty and therefore illustrates hope.

Here, I have reflected on myself. I have always wanted to “change the world” because there is something greater in store for me than life itself. While reflecting on myself, I have reflected on the way I approach life. I have realized that in order to create change, I must live the change I wish to create within myself. I must begin within myself and onto my family, then outwards into my surrounding community, throughout the entire world, and ultimately I longingly yearn to plant the seeds into the youth who will blossom into empowered generations.

Just like Mahatma Gandhi lived life to its utmost meaning, he was the change he wished to see in the world. Just like him, you change yourself for the better; you open your heart and mind in order to understand and serve others. In order to serve others, you must understand those from other cultures, ethnic groups, beliefs, socioeconomic statuses, personalities, languages, histories, and the multitudes of diversity the world has to offer. But first, you must understand yourself and continue to open yourself to understanding what you never knew. Only then can you apply your dreams, those inner ambitions igniting your soul as your fiery passion, into the world around you and, ultimately, into a world you never thought existed.

Yes, I am here because I am a nursing student and this is an international service learning program for nursing, but that has become such as small aspect on this trip. I am not here simply because I want to be a nurse, improve my skills, or learn the ways of another country. I am here because this is who I am. I am here to create nursing as my way of life and to create my way of life parallel to how nursing is here. I aim to embody the qualities bestowed upon me throughout my time in the clinic, workshops, reflections, and most importantly within the communities. From places like Tiquipaya to Chilimarca to Cochabamba to 15,000 feet above sea level in Morochata, Bolivia, I have witnessed how I wish to live my life—by serving others.

So while driving hours throughout the Andes Mountains, I concluded this. Bolivia is not connected to any major bodies of water, but everywhere I turned there was a continuous stream of water symbolizing the continuous stream and strength of life here. There is a continuous connection between man and nature connecting with fresh life existing throughout these mountains. The higher I rose, the more puddles there were, but with these puddles, the never ending sky reflected upon them. Here lies those who have lived life in peace—those who find pure happiness through the serenity that Bolivia encloses them within and all throughout.

Through the poverty, there is beauty. And with the beauty, there is hope. With this hope, there will always be a tomorrow. Thank you, Bolivia, and I cannot wait to see what you have in store for me next.

By Madeleine Ramos, junior nursing major at RutgersNewark

Rutgers students from various academic disciplines are blogging from a service learning trip to Bolivia this winter. They are sharing their experiences with RutgersCamden NewsNow.

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