Monday, January 18, 2010

Non-Profit Profile: Volunteer Bolivia

Volunteer Bolivia
Organizations that arrange and support volunteer experiences paired with language immersion and travel—often called voluntourism—have become increasingly popular in the past two decades, inciting
both endorsement of this more socially and culturally conscious type of travel and criticism from those who claim that such trips are exploitative, unhelpful and encourage a “quick fix” attitude toward deep and complex social problems. In this section we will profile one non-profit group each week that is trying to make a difference in Bolivia and explain what they do and how they do it. This week's group is called Volunteer Bolivia and is an organization dedicated to facilitating volunteer experiences in Bolivia for international visitors.  With the goal of “creating a bridge to understanding Bolivia and her people,”   the organization assists travelers in designing experiences that combine volunteerism, language learning, and homestays in a way that meets the preferences and resources of each customer. 
Co-founded by Lee Cridland, an American who first came to Bolivia in 1994 as a volunteer, and Javier Molina M, a law specialist who returned to his native  Bolivia after studying abroad to and began social justice work in 1999, Volunteer Bolivia is headquartered in Cochabamba, Bolivia, the third-largest city in the country.  Their staff of over a dozen includes professionals from several countries with specialties in culture, travel, and volunteering. 
Volunteer opportunities are designed to support domestic initiatives related to improving education, healthcare, international cooperation and understanding, and strengthening community organizations. Volunteers commit to stays of at least a month, and many long-term positions span nearly a year.  Volunteers determine their exact assignments once they have arrived in Cochabamba and had the opportunity for a brief orientation to the city and the culture.   Volunteer Bolivia provides a wide range of information on their website, ranging from demographic information about Bolivia to articles regarding the ethics of volunteerism. 
Volunteer Bolivia has an in-home travel agency called Cultura Bolivia which offers tours to enrolled volunteers and visitors to Cochabamba.  They focus on ecologically and culturally sensitive travel that partners with local guides and communities. They have developed especially strong links to the small town of Torotoro where they sponsor a Christmas toy give-away for local children. Torotoro is home to numerous dinosaur footprints, bones, and extensive cave systems bring increasing numbers of adventurous tourists to this remote mountain town off the beaten path. 

1 comment:

  1. This is really interesting take on the concept. I never thought of it that way. I came across this site recently which I think will be of great use Volunteer Bolivia. Have a look!