A Call To Action

I have been planning on volunteering in La Paz, Bolivia for some time now. During that time, I have done quite a bit in order to prepare: I paid off my student loans, learned some basic Spanish, earned an IT certification, and took many courses on non-profit management, all to be of use once I arrived in Bolivia.

No one regrets more than I do that this hasn’t come to fruition as I expected it would. Due to some complications and uncertainties in other areas of my life, I cannot afford to volunteer in La Paz as I had hoped. I’ve learned that even if one has the heart to volunteer and help the needy, it’s very difficult to actually make it happen. I’m still not sure if it’s better to discard one’s dreams or defer them, but either way, I won’t be volunteering internationally for the foreseeable future. I emailed the director this morning with the bad news.

HOPE’s service and health programs in La Paz, Bolivia have helped thousands of disadvantaged people live better lives. Together with Foundation Arco Iris, they provide healthcare, education, food, clothing, and volunteer support to impoverished families. Bolivia is the third poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, over 50% of the population lives on less than $2 USD per day. There are approximately 30,000 children and orphans who live and/or work on the streets of La Paz. The need is great.

Please follow this link to see more of their work in Bolivia, follow their WordPress blog, and seriously consider donating to support the effort. I ardently wish that I could help in person, but if it’s not meant to be, we can help from afar.

A Call To Action

Rainbow of Hope for Bolivia’s Street Children

Last night, I attended an event hosted by the Rainbow of Hope for Bolivia’s Street Children foundation.  Social project updates and videos were interspersed with wine and cheese.  70 people smiled at each other since there was something of a language barrier.  The foundation thoughtfully provided translator ear-pieces for the non-Spanish speakers.  Since I passed the A2 exams, I declined and practiced my listening comprehension instead.

RHBSC was founded in 2007 to raise funds to support Fundación Arco Iris.  Father Jose Neuenhofer founded FAI in 1994 to “combat discrimination, marginalization and lack of opportunities suffered by thousands of children and youth living or working on the streets of La Paz – Bolivia.”  In 2011, HOPE Worldwide started supporting FAI’s hospital and nursing education programs.  The three organizations work together to help the impoverished in La Paz.

Bolivia is the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.  Approximately 30,000 children live and work on the streets of La Paz alone.  Arco Iris runs several social programs which include orphanages and vocational training courses.  Their “Refuge House” welcomes adolescents who are pregnant or recently gave birth.  The new mothers receive psychological treatment, professional preparation, and work training to become independent.  Many have been expelled by their families.  Most have been physically and sexually abused.  None of them qualify for governmental assistance.  The biological fathers have no legal or monetary responsibility to the mother or their child.

Like most poor places, there’s a vast wealth divide in Bolivia.  There’s such little faith in Bolivian doctors that those who can afford it will leave the country for something as simple as a physical exam.  Those who can’t afford it don’t receive medical attention.

Unlike most poor places, La Paz is not hot and humid.  It sits in the high mountains of the altiplano at 13,500 feet.  The yearly average low temperature is 34 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius).  The streets are cold at night.

I spoke with Kevin Broyle, HOPE Country Director, and Gary Reguerin about volunteering in La Paz.  They both asked essentially the same question and had the same response to my answer.

“When do you want to make this happen?”

“Maybe another 18 months, after I’m out of debt.”

“Well if you have the heart for it, we’d love your help.”

Most of FAI’s and HOPE’s efforts are medically based, but they need non-medical volunteers for everything else.  They have doctors, psychologists, and nurses; they need to fill other roles.  Your service is helpful even if you aren’t an MD, NP, MBA, MPA, or CFRE.

Fundación Arco Iris and HOPE have been doing good work in La Paz for years.  Things have been going well for most of their initiatives this year, but there’s always more work to do.  They’ve helped thousands of children, but there are tens of thousands more to protect.

Follow HOPE’s WordPress for program updates.  Consider sharing and making a donation.  If you don’t connect with these nonprofits, the Project For Awesome fundraiser, which has raised over $1.1M for a variety of organizations, still has a few days left.

Never worry about numbers.  Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.

-Mother Teresa

Rainbow of Hope for Bolivia’s Street Children