By Joenesha Hardman
During my spring break, I visited La Paz, Bolivia with the goal of volunteering and serving the poor through HOPEworldwide Bolivia, as well as encouraging the church of disciples there. It was a week that impacted my heart more than I could have imagined.
La Paz is a beautiful city, with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, but the beauty that captivated me is the love I experienced while there.
I visited Hospital Arco Iris (HAI), a women’s prison, a pre-school, a girls’ orphanage, a day care/tutoring center and other projects affiliated with Foundation Arco Iris. I was able to serve, play, love and encourage so many children and their families at these sites. The HOPE team and volunteers served as excellent examples of what it really means to serve and love the underprivileged. As they demonstrated and taught me first-hand what they see and experience in Bolivia on a daily basis, I tried my best to follow in their footsteps and imitate how they love the people who cross their paths.
As a senior in college wanting to pursue a master’s degree in Public Health, I was able to learn firsthand about the overwhelming social and medical difficulties that the impoverished people of this area face. Challenges from their extreme poverty range from domestic violence, sexual abuse, lack of medical attention, and alcohol abuse. I witnessed the supportive efforts of the hospital and social programs involved in bettering the quality of life and helping to solve these problems. My visit impacted my professional goals by broadening my view on what it would mean for me to be a public health professional in an underdeveloped Latin American community. I have seen the needs, and I long to use my future professional skills to be a part of the solution.
I will never forget my week in Bolivia. The love I experienced from the HOPE team and the church of disciples melted my heart and motivated me to love the way they love. They have shown me how important it is to love the ones God puts before you and how changing the world starts by loving one person at a time, interaction by interaction, just like Jesus loved. They have inspired me to live out Isaiah 61… to give hope to the hopeless, good news to the poor, to help the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom to the enslaved, to comfort those who mourn, and to bestow on them a crown of beauty…instead of a spirit of despair.