I was looking to volunteer somewhere in Bolivia and with luck, I happened to find Sustainable Bolivia, in the same city where my boyfriend and his medical school colleagues were traveling. I had written several emails to volunteer organizations and Sustainable Bolivia was the first to reply and so I went with it!
Upon arrival the executive director, Erik, was waiting, and from there on, things went smoothly! That first evening, we met up with fellow housemates for a night on the town! Cochabamba is very easy to get around and you can walk almost anywhere in the centre if you have the time. At the start of the week, I met the other Sustainable Bolivia staff and though I didn’t know much of any Spanish, I understood and felt right at home. Boria, an SB staffer, went with me the first day to my place of volunteering: Centro de Salud Pacata. There I met Dr. Romero, the center’s director (physician) and began my volunteering/shadowing. Dr. Romero is a hoot! His sarcasm will keep you on your toes (especially if you don’t speak Spanish), but moreover he pushes you to do something not just be a bystander. At the clinic, I took patient’s blood pressure, height, weight, and age as well as see patients with Dr. Romero.
I also went with an intern and two nursing students to a local school for vaccinations and check ups (government program for even more impoverished children). After my center volunteering, I was able to volunteer at the Viedma Hospital and Viedma Children’s Burn Center with Movmiento Sonrisa. The children at both places are so in need of attention and play and their smiles make it all worth it. The environment can be quite sad at times, but you will learn so much about the resilience these amazing children have within. I was also able to converse with some of the Doctors, Nurses, Physical Therapists, and Burn Care specialists. I highly recommend volunteering at both places with Sustainable Bolivia if you are interested in children, medical school, physical therapy, and helping people is the greatest of need.