07 Nov 2017
Sharing his skills and opening his heart Ron Bedyn, Ara Building and Carpentry tutor, recently returned from his third trip to Bolivia to volunteer at the Corazón Grande Orphanage for girls. Joined by twelve other Cantabrian volunteers, including Nicole Davis a fourth year ITAB carpentry student, the group shared an experience of a lifetime.
Nicole first heard about the Bolivian trip two years ago while studying in pre-trades. This year she seized the opportunity to go, and fundraised to pay her own way.
“I organised carwashes and raffles, and got given a grant as well,” she said.
During the three weeks they were away Ron and Nicole assisted with building maintenance and improvements, applying their trade skills to help upgrade the Orphanage.
“This time around we painted the exteriors of three of the buildings, replaced fly screens, repaired a playground, built a couple of barbeque tables, and just did general maintenance on the grounds. Quite a lot to do in a few weeks,” Ron said.
Volunteer group pictured with the girls outside Corazón Grande Orphanage
Nicole said the trip was inspiring, “I loved it. It was completely different to here. Very refreshing. It’s hard to put into words really. Seeing the girls’ happy faces was so rewarding. Over there it’s different to see a female builder. I suppose they just couldn’t believe a female could do that kind of work,” she said.
In Christchurch Nicole is doing an apprenticeship through her ITAB course at Ara, which involves working on a commercial job for housing New Zealand, in stark contrast to the work in Bolivia.
“Basically in Bolivia we went back to building roots. We didn’t have many power tools. It was all hand tools. I was in charge of the health and safety as well, making sure everyone was being safe”.
However, the trip was not solely work and no play. “We had some excursions on the weekends. Went out with the girls and had picnics and things. Then on the way back home we flew back via La Paz and cycled Death Road. It was thrilling,” Ron said.
The exhilarating 64km ride along Bolivia’s notorious Death Road is one of the nation’s biggest drawcards and a thrill seeker hotspot. The road that begins at 15,400 feet, attracts around 25,000 cyclists annually despite claiming the lives of an estimated 300 people each year.
As these trips continue, a positive relationship is developing between Ara and the Orphanage. In 2015, one of the girls from the Orphanage came on a short exchange to Christchurch to study English at Ara. Ron hopes that in the future this opportunity can be extended to more of the girls.
“It is our hope to invite another of the girls to come study English on a 3-4 month scholarship,” he says.
According to Ron there will most likely be another trip in 1-2 years’ time and other Ara staff and students would be welcome to join the volunteer effort.
Find more information about Corazón Grande Orphanage here: http://www.corazongrande.org/index_eng.html
Travelling on the Mi Teleferico cable car network provides a spectacular view of La