To be completely honest, I didn’t know anything about CARE. But I soon found out about what I now know to be one of the most active non-governmental organisations globally. I also learnt that the main aim of our partnership was to improve healthcare conditions in developing countries. And that included a unique opportunity for us to volunteer to help.
It took me less than a minute to decide to apply. A few weeks later I got the message: I was going to Bolivia. I couldn’t believe I had this incredible opportunity.
I had other work to do too. My boss challenged me to lose weight: he was concerned about the impact of the altitude in Bolivia. I already knew, in my heart of hearts, I needed to exercise more and this was the impetus I needed. To really encourage me, for every kilo I lost, my boss donated $1,000 to charity. I accepted the challenge and lost 12kg. The encouragement from HARTMANN’s social media fans and followers was amazing and really helped me get through the challenge.
Then the day came. After two days and three flights we set off on the long road to Tarwachapi. We seemed to be travelling forever. We finally arrived in the town of Sacaca, high up on the Bolivian plateau. The altitude did hit me hard but after a quiet night the headaches subsided.
That brings me to the South American concept of “Buen Vivir” and how it typifies how communities come before the individual. There isn’t really a definition of Buen Vivir; probably the closest is collective well-being. Importantly, it’s community-centric, ecologically balanced and culturally sensitive.
What is abundantly clear is that it’s shaping social reform across the entire continent, drawing on the ancestral concepts of sumak kawsay in Quechua and suma qaman in Aymara, the two most widely spoken indigenous languages in the Andes region of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. I firmly believe it provides a guide for all of us, everywhere in the world.
I’ve worked in the healthcare sector for a long time so I have a good idea about Buen Vivir how complicated it is to deliver the best treatments at the right time. What struck me most in Bolivia is the impact culture has on health practices, in particular the strong influence traditional healers have in a patient’s treatment choices. To me there is no doubt they are an integral part of the process. It took some adjusting on our part but there is no doubt the healers play an essential role.But my journey didn’t stop in Bolivia. Even though I was only there for a week, I learnt so much in that week and it has brought me to a whole new level of self-awareness.
The generosity and humility that was given to us by the people of Bolivia - Buen Vivir - is something I will always hold close to my heart. In fact, it has transformed the way I think, act and work.
Another group of my colleagues have just left for Bolivia. I really encourage them to take the time, both when they’re there and once they’re home again, to reflect on what they see and what they experience.
Finally, I hope they will share their experiences as much as possible. That’s how we can contribute to making health more accessible all around the world. However big our ambitions, progress comes from small actions. What CARE is doing in Bolivia, and around the world, exemplifies that philosophy and bring Buen Vivir to life.
Fernando has extensive experience in the medical device industry and has worked for global leaders such as Abbott Vascular and B. Braun Group. His experience includes sales and marketing, product and business management. He joined the HARTMANN GROUP in Australia as Marketing Director in 2015.
Follow Fernando on Twitter: @Ferna_sepulveda