As I searched online for volunteer opportunities abroad during the summer, I came across the Sustainable Bolivia website. I found that Sustainable Bolivia offered a wide range of volunteer programs from medical relief to microfinance. It was relatively inexpensive compared to the other volunteering programs and also offered a host family home-stay program. After looking at the testimonials from other people, I decided to spend two months of my freshman summer volunteering in Bolivia. I took advantage of both the host family that Sustainable Bolivia offered. I was matched with the Tapia family and they immediately took me as part of their family. They showed me around the city, took me to various concerts and social events, introduced me to their friends, and aided me in every way possible.
When I was sick and unable to get out of bed, Nora took care of me by making special meals and running back and forth to the hospital to get medical testing done for me. It was as if I never left home and was a great relief to me while living in Bolivia. Through Sustainable Bolivia, I volunteered at the Centro de Salud España, located in Molle Molle, a rural village of 5000 people. At the site, I helped nurses take patients in, vaccinated dogs and cats for rabies, gave patients medicine, and created medical supplies. It was a great experience for me and I got to do far more hands-on work than I had imagined. By volunteering in a rural region of Bolivia, I was exposed to situations that I would never have seen in the U.S. or Canada.
Currently, I am following up the volunteer work that I did by trying to implement a chlorination campaign in the unsanitary water system of the village. The staff of Sustainable Bolivia were supportive in every way possible. They helped with everything from obtaining visas to locating local transportation and held many social events to allow volunteers to get to know each other. They were very welcoming and created a sense of a family among the volunteers. I still stay in contact with them and they have been very helpful in aiding my water sanitation project. During my free time, I explored Cochabamba and Bolivia. There were many sites to see within Cochabamba itself and I frequented visits to la cancha (the biggest market in South America), cristo de la Concordia (a giant statue of the christ on the top of a mountain), restaurants, movie theatres, and gyms. It was easy to go from place to place as taxis and buses were abundant. Travel to other cities was also easy and inexpensive.
During the weekends, I took local buses to La Paz and Santa Cruz for approximately $3~10 US and got to see the major tourist sites within Bolivia. My only regret is that I didn’t have enough time to travel and see las salares de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world. My time in Bolivia was the greatest experience that I had in my life and I would not trade it for anything in the world. I would fully recommend this program to anyone considering an international volunteering experience, no matter who you are and what you have done in the past.