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  • Writer's pictureOlivia Wyles

Lots of Lasts

Happy October, friends! Since I arrived in Bolivia last September, it is officially my 14th month here! I can’t believe I’m saying this but– the end of my time in Bolivia is on the horizon… I leave in just over 48 hours.

The last 2 months have been a whirlwind, but it has easily been the best part of my entire experience here. Although I have missed my two volunteer friends DEARLY (Grace and Hannah, I LOVE YOU!), being here alone has truly been so fun in ways I wasn’t expecting. Although it has been difficult at times to not have any English speakers around, or other people my age around in general, I feel like the absence of those things has also allowed me to immerse myself even deeper into life here and get to know even better the people I work with– especially the community of religious sisters. This is something that brings me much joy and fulfillment as well as some sadness as I realize that it is about to end.

What’s been going on the last 2 months?! I don’t have much time to write today, so we’re going list-style! Here goes:

  • We celebrated Hermana Filomena’s birthday, one of the two sisters that runs the hogar. I cannot emphasize enough that birthdays are a BIG deal here!

  • That same sister went home to care for a sick family member for a couple of months, so we went from a team of 6 at the hogar to a team of 3 in a matter of a month..!

  • One of the past girls from the hogar has a padrino (godfather / sponsor) who came to visit and we got to host him, have a big party to celebrate his visit, and I got to show him around the city! Which included something new for me as well– getting to experience the beautiful main cemetery in Cochabamba

  • Going on 3 full-day hikes up a nearby hill/small mountain (what do you call something bigger than a hill but smaller than a mountain? Beats me) with all 35 girls.

  • We started AND finished a construction project that was made possible thanks to everyone who donated to the fundraiser I organized! We raised over $5,000 and all I can say is thank you. There are no words to express my thanks. I felt pretty incapable of raising that much money, so I prayed about it and just asked God to send the money, and He sure did, through all of YOU! It was a project that included: (a) putting bathrooms in the 3 volunteer rooms (b) installing new toilets for all of the girls because the other ones were SO old and out-of-shape (c) installing a new tile floor in our chapel as it was all messed up after the new plumbing was put in and (d) the labor for all the previous items.

  • Applying for jobs (Not going well, in case you were wondering. Ha! All in God’s timing)

  • Travel planning for an upcoming trip

  • Writing tons of goodbye letters (This takes an eternity to do when each one makes you emotional. Lol.)

  • Saying goodbye to other volunteer friends in the city

  • Getting ready for the upcoming confirmation ceremony for my goddaughter by taking several shopping trips into the city for a dress, shoes, etc.

  • Receiving and transitioning in a brand-spanking-new volunteer! Oh, Kat! I am so excited for you to start this journey and I can’t explain what a relief it is to leave knowing that someone as kind, loving, and fun as you is here to be with them now. It has been so much fun to show you my favorite places in the city to spend our free day, teach you about life at the hogar, and run around the city trying to get your long-term visa. Life living and working in the hogar is absolutely nuts and you never stop learning– it is the most challenging AND the most BEAUTIFUL thing you may ever do. I know it has been for me.

  • Got my first haircut! If you know me personally you know about my journey with alopecia universalis, an autoimmune disorder that caused all of my hair to fall out about 7 years ago. Well, since I came to Bolivia, it started regrowing! Although it is still pretty patchy, I’m able to conceal the patches fairly well (for the time being), and I got my first haircut yesterday.

  • The big confirmation ceremony is TOMORROW! I’m so freakin' excited to *officially* become the madrina (godmother) for my girl, and I know it’s going to be the most fun day ever with all of the festivities afterwards.

  • The girls have come to know me for many things, one of those being my love of baking. Pretty much every single Sunday I bake something for the girls for snack time, and this Sunday will be the last one! Chocolate chip cookies are on the menu…

  • Monday will probably be the most emotional day… of my life. This feels really deep to put in a bullet point, so I’ll write it down below (haha!):

I didn’t really understand what it meant to be loved without limits until I came here. No shade on my family, because I’m so blessed to have a family that deeply loves me. However, I’ve had this love my whole life (praise be to God), and I realize now that I almost expected it, without realizing how difficult it can be to choose to continually love someone. These girls made me realize. They made me realize that we are called to love each other, as brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter what. I knew this before in my head, but now I know it in my heart. Love isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice. And although I’ve messed up A LOT, I had to choose to love the girls through the good and the bad. And they chose to love me back, which has been the most humbling experience. No matter how many times I lose my patience, they forgive me, and they continue loving me. At times I feel like I don’t deserve their love, and they don’t care that I feel that way– they love me anyways. And this profound experience of love has helped me to understand God’s love for me. I truly hope that God worked through me to show them the same.

That’s all for today. I’m sure I’ll be following up with another post here in a week or so with updates on my last 2 days here in Bolivia since they are SURELY going to be action-packed (i.e.: lots of emotions). Until then, enjoy some fun photos from the last 2 months.


Fun at the hogar & in the city with the new volunteer, Kat!

SOME of the *after* photos of the construction project

Photos of a few of our girls who were ranked #1 in their class!

Photos of the angel girls!

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