Thank you, Jean Carla!

by Melissa Nix

After 25 years (!) as Amizade’s site director in Bolivia, it’s bittersweet to announce that Jean Carla Costas will pass the baton to her assistant of many years, Ariel Flores. She’s Amizade’s fairy godmother, one of only eleven special people in our hall of fame, our longest-serving site director, and, as anyone who has been lucky enough to meet her would agree, an all-around incredible person. Though we’ll be saying goodbye to her in the official role of Bolivia site director, Jean Carla will always be a cherished member of our Amizade community.

It’s impossible to put into words the type of impact Jean Carla has had on the organization over the years. Cochabamba was the first community that Amizade expanded to, two years after being founded in Brazil, and Jean Carla has been our Bolivia site director from the very beginning! Her leadership built connections with dozens of organizations, host families, and community members who have welcomed so many of Amizade participants to Cochabamba over the years. She initiated countless projects and partnerships, many of which are still ongoing, that have benefitted so many in her community.

And through all she does, Jean Carla never fails to inspire visitors and local young volunteers alike, many of whom still talk about their transformative experiences in Cochabamba even years later. The only thing greater than Jean Carla’s impact on Amizade might be by the way she’s shaped the lives, perspectives, and decisions of so many individual people through her work.

From participants to communities to Amizade staff members, we’re all better off because we know her!

A special thank you from Torey Siebart, Amizade staff member and Amizade Bolivia alum:

“I am so grateful that I had the honor of meeting Jean Carla and spending four months under her amazing leadership in 2017. She made my first time leaving the United States feel so easy, comfortable, and exciting! She warmly welcomed us into her country and into her family, planned and organized fantastic learning experiences, and was always there to support us in any way possible. I feel very lucky to have experienced firsthand the impact that Jean Carla has had on Amizade’s Bolivia programs and participants.

I felt even luckier in 2020 when I began working alongside her, too! She pivoted so quickly to the virtual format and allowed for cross-cultural experiences to continue to happen in a meaningful, creative, and engaging way.

While I’m sad that we will no longer be working together, I look forward to our continued friendship! I also know that Ariel will do a fantastic job taking over as site director.

Thank you, Jean Carla, for your kindness, support, and friendship— all of which has had a lasting impact on my life!”

Some thoughtful words from Jean Carla

We asked Jean Carla to share a few reflections, hopes for the future, and words of wisdom. No one embodies Amizade’s mission quite like she does! Please join us in wishing her the best and thanking her for so many years of dedication, community and relationship building, and inspiring empathy.

What are your favorite Amizade memories? I have so many memories, hundreds or even thousands, but more than events or moments that I value so much, I have amazing memories of people — every single person that I worked with, every volunteer I had the joy of meeting, every community member, homestay family, providers, tutors, etc. They all are timeless “memories” that I treasure in my heart.

What do you hope for the future of Amizade Bolivia? Amizade is a constant journey and Bolivia has a lot to offer and receive from our programs. We still have many more “amizades” to make and keep contributing to make Bolivia and the world a better place!

What advice do you have for Ariel as the new site director? We are fortunate to have people like Ariel working for Amizade, he’s been with us for more than 12 years now and hopefully many more to come. I would just like to tell him: always look at the big picture and work on the details. You have all the skills and experience to continue the growth of Amizade, there is so much more to accomplish.

Meet Ariel Flores, our new Bolivia site director

If you’ve traveled to Bolivia with Amizade in the past decade, you already know Ariel! He joined Amizade in December 2011. We’re so excited that Ariel, with his enthusiasm for and experience with Amizade Bolivia, will be the person to carry on Jean Carla’s incredible work. Please join us in officially welcoming him as our site director and get to know a little bit about him below:

What is your favorite thing about Amizade programs? It’s a hard question! I think my favorite thing is that everyone who is part of Amizade programs grows as a global citizen (sometimes without realizing) by understanding and getting close to each other.

What do you do outside of this work? I work in tourism, and I am a professor at a local university.

What’s a fun fact about you? I love doing rafting!

Thank you again, Jean Carla, for sharing your love for Bolivia with us all as site director for so many years! We’re so proud of what we’ve built together in Cochabamba and we’re honored to continue that growth for many years to come.