I volunteered at Up Close between April and June 2014. I had seen a video online and read accounts by past volunteers; it looked and sounded amazing and I wondered if it would live up to my expectations. I arrived after three flights but despite my exhaustion I was excited to meet Emma and Rolando. I vividly remember their smiling faces as they helped us with our bags, their energy was infectious. I immediately felt at home and was touched by the food they had prepared for us, especially the banana bread - it was amazing! Emma showed us around the grounds and the local area, the views were incredible. We were also given an in-depth handbook with a range of useful information in regards to food, transport, and safety.
In the first week we attended an induction, which included talks about the history of Up Close, an introduction to the projects, and team building activities. We also met the coordinator Anahi, who was really friendly and informative. I was assigned multiple projects: assisting teachers at a children's daycare centre, coordinating activities for an after-school club, planning and delivering English workshops, helping at the zoo, and carrying out research about a local trek. I particularly enjoyed teaching English to students aged between 12 and 17 years old. I established a great relationship with them; watching their progress from the first class I taught to the last was really rewarding. I also learnt a lot from the students about the local customs and they were just as eager to learn about British culture.
Outside the volunteer projects there was always lots to do. In the evenings and weekends we either headed to the centre of La Paz, watched movies in our cosy accommodation, or relaxed in the hammocks. There were also birthday celebrations, pizza nights, barbecues, and campfires. As I write this I feel incredibly nostalgic, I would recommend Up Close to anyone who wants to challenge themselves, while also making a positive contribution to a vibrant and friendly community. I was deeply inspired by Emma and Rolando's commitment and thoughtfulness, and I hope to return in the future.