They call Cochabamba, Bolivia "The City of Eternal Spring." My choice to intern abroad with the Foundation for Sustainable Development in Cochabamba truly invested me in an eternal spring. My experience with FSD brought fresh ideas into bloom, grew global relationships and showed me the power that local communities hold.
FSD welcomed and immersed me into the Cochabamban community. I engaged in a new environment with support and guidance from Mauricio and Cassandra, the program director and international program coordinator of FSD Bolivia's Site Team. Mauricio gave me sage wisdom, and with his help, I experienced not only public transportation adventures on some of the most brilliantly colored buses I've ever seen, but also the chance to ask strangers for directions in Spanish and challenge myself to rethink how I commute and communicate (and embrace getting lost in the meatpacking market along the way!).
My work as a FSD and Aldeas Infantiles intern created connections with local municipal organizations--EMSA and Gaia Pacha--to catalyze action on the global issue of environmentalism. These relationships grew from the ground up, and this spirit of collectivity grew even more so with my homestay family. The Ramirez Molina family defined my summer. Countless stories and jokes were told over early morning and late night tea (I miss mate de anís on the daily) with my madre, padre and hermano boliviano, all of whom shared their love of their city and their country with me.
In Cochabamba, big things happen through small but strong action. My FSD intern project drew from within and grew from face-to-face interactions instead of the usual text or email I expect from my studies at Northwestern University. I learned to ask not what a community needs, but rather how we can build upon the assets that a community already has.
FSD is an incredible nonprofit that thrives because it honors its mission for community-driven and -implemented change at every level of the organization. This past summer, I had the opportunity to intern at FSD's San Francisco headquarters. The office provided an incredible experience of grant reviews, marketing and staff dialogue, and I feel so lucky to have my FSD story span two continents with one organization and a continuous community.