Although we love Cochabamba, sometimes you just need to get out of town and remind yourself what a dynamic and diverse country Bolivia is. With rented bikes, basic camping gear, 45 Peanut Bars, and a loose idea of where they were going, Sustainable Bolivia staff members Jonathan McCarthy and Eric Di Bari set out on their Bolivian bicycle adventure. The route they intended to travel traverses some 300 kilometers of Andean altiplano, mountains, and pampas, from Oruro to Cochabamba.
Travel in Bolivia is safe, convenient, and cheap. As an SB volunteer, your weekends could be this exciting!
One of the ways that Sustainable Bolivia seeks to impact the local community of Cochabamba is by providing scholarships and financial assistance to young adults who wish to further their education but lack the means to do so. Although our scholarship recipients all have unique stories, most have been juggling work and school since a young age and several come from broken homes and backgrounds of abuse and domestic violence. By working side by side with social care organizations such as Mosoj Yan and PAI Tarpuy, the Sustainable Bolivia scholarship program acts as a continuation of their development and a real opportunity for these students to achieve personal and financial independence. Over the years, Sustainable Bolivia has seen 7 scholarship recipients graduate from their respective programs and pursue careers in their fields of study, while an additional 5 recipients continue to pursue their studies at local universities or technical institutes.
One such scholarship recipient, Julia Molina, has recently graduated from her corte and confección program at a local technical insitute. With the help of Sustainable Bolivia and Mosoj Yan, Julia now has a technical degree as a seamstress and a means with which to provide for herself. Learn more about Julia Molina by watching this short documentary that was filmed and edited by Paula Weik.
During a year long travel adventure through Central and South America, Wendy McClellan took a 2 month respite from her newly annointed fiancee, Mark, and their motorbike trip to come to Cochabamba and undertake a volunteer position with Sustainable Bolivia. With her brand new degree in Occupational Therapy, Wendy had tons of theroretical knowledge and book smarts that she just couldn’t wait to put to use with Puntiti, a care center that offers educational and rehabilitation services to people with special needs. After a few weeks at Puntiti, Wendy finally found her stride and decided to undertake a project making customized back and side supports for patients that are limited to wheelchair use. With the support of her friends and family back home in Australia, Wendy launched a fundraiser and managed to earn $1,100 that was used to buy all the necessary wheelchair support supplies and other educational and therapy related items.
Here is a recap of Wendy’s project with Puntiti from her latest blog post. Enjoy!
“After those initial few weeks l had started to really focus on seating which was as much a learning process for me as what l hope was a help for the organization. Using a lot of blue foam, material, glue and many chats with the physiotherapist and the two Spanish girls, Anna and Natalia, who were volunteering as physiotherapists at Puntiti. We started working with the children with the greatest issues with positioning and worked from there. It was a great project for me that then led into being able to observe how all of these children’s conditions affected their tone and position and consequently their overall health.”
“During this l was observing the lack of occupation for many of the children in the orphanage during the day and the lack of resources that the organization had to assist with this. So after many chats with the other volunteers and the SB chaps we decided that l would run a fundraiser to raise money for more resources for seating/ positioning, for the therapists to broaden their treatment and for staff/ volunteers to run activities with the children. In the end we raised $1180 for Punititi and were able to achieve what l hope will be a long lasting contribution to the organization.”
“And so that was Bolivia, beautiful, filled with great new friends and great times. I will miss the SB community greatly, it was fabulous to be surrounded by people with passionate intentions and strong views ready to discuss anything over a beer, bottle of wine, empanada or a walk through the city. I felt truly alive in that context, being heart and soul in the work and surrounded by such great people.”
Covered finished product! Unfortunately l cant post photos of the kids as it wasn’t permitted to publish their photos on the internet.
Crazed and delirious Australian with too much foam and a stanley knife!
Getting into that foamy goodness!
Positioning and pressure care guides for the children
Cut and glued….nearly/ casi casi!
Some of the loot that the fundraising was able to purchase! Activity boxes all wrapped up!
Puntiti main gates, no photos were allowed inside the building so this is as far as we go!
Presentation Ireland is a non-government organization based in Dublin, Ireland, and seeks to promote human rights, social inclusion, human rights, and environmental sustainability. Lately they have been working to develop their development contacts abroad, and when they approached Sustainable Bolivia with the concept of a partnership based on several short video presentations, we loved the idea. Here is our first video correspondence.
As he fights on behalf of the environment and the trees against corporate greed and the Once-ler, the Lorax reminds us that change begins right here, with ourselves. We must be the change that we want to see in the world.
The students at the bilingual Escuela de Despertar are harnessing their inner Lorax to create environmental change within the confines of their north Cochabamba montessori school. Last February, the school broke ground on a sustainable vegetable garden and greenhouse project in the northeast corner of the school grounds.
When Sustainable Bolivia volunteers Maggie Cassaro and Breanne Overton learned about the project, they immediately jumped on board and offered to further embellish the project with a mural centered around the inspirational theme of the Lorax. On Thursday, November 22, Maggie and Bre watched with pride as the student’s inaugurated the project with a theatrical rendition of the Lorax.
Congratulations to all those involved for your hard work and dedication!
Ever heard of an eco-casa? Everyone in the campo is now raving about the Eco-Casa’s financial and environmental benefits thanks to Sustainable Bolivia and CECAM volunteer, Tom Creten. Over the course of his two month volunteer placement, Tom worked to develop the concept of the”eco casa.” By integrating solar cookers, wood-efficient stoves, and their newest composting toilet design, Tom and CECAM have created a closed circuit system where all bi-products are utilized in another realm of sustainability within the Eco-Casa. Ash, for example, created by the efficient wood-burning stoves is utilized in the composting toilet to convert human waste to usable compost and later for use in the Eco-Casa’s vegetable garden.
After completion of their first eco-casa in the Cochabamba suburb of ABRA, Tom focused his energies on the promotion of CECAM’s Eco-Casas and to recruit partner organizations and attract new clients. In addition to writing literature and offering workshops, Tom utilized his networks back home in Belgium to raise nearly 800 Euros, enough to outfit 14 Bolivian families with Eco-Casa, complete with solar ovens, wood-efficient stoves, and composting toilets. Confident that the financial and environmental benefits of their products speak for themselves, Tom and CECAM are excited to have 14 new family as ambassadors to lead the charge for sustainable development and change in rural areas of Bolivia.
Sustainable Bolivia volunteer Kevin Kurz is an absolute legend. Energetic, dedicated, and beyond charismatic, Kevin parked his 65L Gregory backpack in Cochabamba and has spent the past 2 months working in the Cochabamba suburb of ABRA with CECAM Bolivia to design and install the community’s first composting toilet. Gracious as ever, Kevin wrote a quick synopsis of CECAM’s latest project. On Wednesday, October 10, SB accompanied Kevin to ABRA for the inauguration of CECAM’s latest Baño Seco. Here’s what we found.
Composting Toilet Project
CECAM is working with the peri-urban communities of Cochabamba to build composting toilets (baños secos). Currently, approximately 70% of the families who live in these communities do not have any form of bathroom, which creates several environmental and health problems. CECAM’s composting toilet design is a sanitary solution that does not require the use of water.
In the research phase of the project, our main goal was to build a nice bathroom, for the lowest possible price, with the resources available locally. On a trip out to the community to discuss the composting toilet concept, CECAM realized that many of the families have numerous resources available to build these bathrooms. CECAM´s primary role throughout construction was to provide oversight and technical support, in addition to building the urine-diverting toilet component of the bathroom.
CECAM is currently planning to hold educational workshops and distribute informational flyers to various families in the community.
What is a Composting Toilet?
Composting toilets do not need water to function and are not connected to the sewage system. They are very effective biologically, good for the environment and health of the families who use them, and save money and energy. The separation of urine is very important to minimize the odors, and is also advantageous in the composting process. After each use of the toilet, a mixture of dirt and ash is poured on top of the feces. This mixture dries the feces, which prevents odors and proliferation of flies and other insects, and also enables the process of making the feces into a usable fertilizer.
The Titicaca Water Frog is a very rare frog species that is found only in Lake Titicaca and the surrounding rivers that flow into this South American high altitude lake. The species is currently critically endangered to due over consumption by humans, pollution, and decreased life-expectancy during the tadpole stage (due to an introduced population of trout). Local customs attribute higher intelligence, greater development during the adolescent and teenage years, and an increased sex drive with the consumption of this rare and now endangered frog. As a result, the Titicaca Water Frog has traditionally been considered a delicacy amongst the local populace.
Burlington, Vermont natives Julia and Jeremy Walker have been working with Sustainable Bolivia and the Bolivian Amphibian Initiative to alter the unfortunate course of this species existence. With backgrounds in Ecology, Biology, and Conservation, Julia and Jeremy have been spending their weekends in and around Lake Titicaca, scuba diving in the chilly waters in hopes to find these well camouflaged frogs. The frogs are then returned to the Museo de Historia Natural in Cochabambafor data collection and analysis.
Saturday, October 6, Sustainable Bolivia and the Walkers will be undertaking a community workday hosted by the Museo de Historia Natural. During the workday, SB volunteers will assist in creating the Museo’s first live, outdoor exhibit that will include a large frog pond, native flora garden and information about the Bolivian Amphibian Initiative’s captive breeding program.
On Tuesday, September 12, Jeremy and Julia prepared an informal charla with information about the Titicaca Water Frog, their project, and the October workday. Immediately following, Jeremy and Jonathan collaborated on an Italian themed shared dinner for all the participants to enjoy.
- Check out more information at bolivianamphibianinitiative.org
On Thursday, August 30, Ryan Greer, the National Director of Sustainable Bolivia delivered a charla on voluntourism and responsible travel. Throughout the course of the evening, we debated thought provoking questions such as: What is at the heart of our desire to travel? What do we hope learn or accomplish? Can a short three months really make a difference and what happens to the projects we undertake when we are gone? Do our efforts truly make a difference in the community or are they self-serving projects that merely make us feel better about ourselves?
The reality is that NGOs play a large part in community development that many governments have often neglected or do not have the financial or human resources to address. Perhaps those of us who choose to donate our time and energy do so because of altruistic ideals aimed at better knowing and understanding our human network. Or maybe our professions or technical skills are in high demand and we truly can fill a void. Perhaps we are people merely driven by the possibility of making a difference and realize that until we put ourselves in the game, the opportunity to create positive change in the communities in which we find ourselves will continue to pass us by.
Alejandra Silvera worked with the organization, Educating the Streets and the Construyendo Sociedad (EC-CS), from July 6th to August 24th.
Educating the Streets works to faciliate a balance between the work and studies of young child workers. Alejandra assisted in communications, marketing, and social media. In addition, she created recreational and educational activities for children in the after school program. For Alejandra, her time with Educating the Streets “was more than a professional experience, it was a life experience.” Her work was “interesting because they allowed me to apply my previous skills, ideas, and opinions to impact a real project.”
As for the kids back at Educating the Streets, Alejandra maintains that “they are the most beautiful children in Bolivia. I am definitely going to miss them!”