We are excited to share an update from one of Pulpit Rock’s Strategic Partners working in Bolivia, Kara Gowler!
Kara works at Highlands International School (a part of Network of International Christian Schools) where she mentors new teachers and helps the school maintain its accreditation. HIS serves students in La Paz, Bolivia, which is one of the largest cities in the poorest country in South America.
Kara’s work helps provide educational opportunities that would otherwise be unreachable for children in this region, including providing them with an English speaking, Gospel centered education that can broaden their opportunities for higher education and beyond.
When I first committed to Bolivia, I never imagined I would be here for more than two years.
Here I am at the beginning of my fifth year! In October, I will get my permanent visa.
I have just arrived in La Paz for another school year after being in the States for a few weeks for vacation. It was a nice reprieve from the stresses of being locked down in Bolivia, but it is good to be back here. We are doing school virtually, at least for this first semester.
The last year in Bolivia has been a challenging one. We have had a Level 4 warning from the State Department 3 times this year, which is sadly impressive.
In October, there was a presidential election that led to what some in the international community called a coup. This led to a month of civil unrest while the Bolivian people fought for their votes to be recognized in an election that was deemed by an international voting body to be unfair.
We had to do school online for about 8 days while the streets were barricaded, and we pretty much stayed inside while things were burned outside.
All of this led to the appointment of an interim president, who scheduled elections for May 2020, which of course were pushed to September because of the virus, and have now been pushed to this October, causing more riots in the last few weeks.
Because of the events of last October and November, my mental health took a pretty serious hit and I faced some serious burnout.
I started counseling in January when I got back to Bolivia after Christmas, which helped quite a bit until everything shut down in March. I am still struggling to put myself back together there.
Everything shut down here in March at about the same time they did in the U.S. Our last day of school on campus was March 13th, after which time we switched to online school. Thankfully we had practice from the first semester, so the switch wasn’t as overwhelming as it could have been.
Unfortunately, our days were spent in complete lockdown. We were allowed to leave the house for 5 hours a week to go grocery shopping, go to the bank, or to the pharmacy.
Nothing else was open. The day we were allowed to leave was based on our government ID numbers. To enter the grocery stores, we had to walk through showers of disinfectant and step on mats of bleach. It was a pretty intense process. I was very happy to come back to the U.S. and get to go outside whenever I wanted to.
As I said, now I am back in Bolivia and we are doing online school. Our challenge as a school is to find ways to connect well with our students and share the love of Christ with them from afar, not just teach them the content.