Carmen Perea: “VOLPA is a truly worthwhile experience”

<< I got to know Entreculturas through the Valencia Delegation, where I lived, and I joined the International Volunteer Programme, VOLPA. I have been in Africa for over a year, with one more to go.

The Grate Lakes region is quite unstable economically and politically, since democracies are very recent. Next year, elections will be held in Burundi and this will affect the country. At present I would say that Burundi is still a country dependant on the NGOs that work there; at least it is my feeling.

My work there is to be the "regional JRS administrator" which means that I am in charge of managing the funds of the JRS in Burundi, Congo and Rwanda. Daily life starts early. The sun rises around 5:30h, and by 6 we are all on our feet. After breakfast, we go to the office which is nearby where we spend the day. Some days are more intense than others, but always full of energy to support the great work carried out in the region. My specific job is accountability, that is to say, explaining to the donors the destination of their money.

I had many motivations and also fears in going to Burundi. When one makes a decision in life, one is not very sure of the outcome. ... But I was very keen on going to the African continent unknown to me and of which I had heard so much about. In the beginning, when I arrived, I was determined to adapt myself as much as I could to the circumstances, to listen, to learn, and I slowly started to overcome my fears. To arrive in Africa is a great cultural shock. One thinks that one knows it all, but this is not so. The change is so great that you have to realize that the culture and habits are different to ours and one has to make an effort to learn and adapt to their way of life. When I started to work and to know the people and the place where I lived, my fears started to disappear. Maybe the most difficult for me has been to understand that they don't live around the clock, they take their time and one has to accept it. This is not better or worse, it is just different. Now, after a year, I feel very comfortable and I recommend the experience. I think it is an opportunity.

I am sure that everything that I am learning will be very useful in the future. I still haven't thought about what I will do when I return, but I will continue with cooperation work, either in Africa, Asia, Latin America or in Spain, but it is a truly worth while work. >>