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Volunteer Work with street childrenThis position is in a nonprofit organization that helps youth who are working and/or living on the streets of Cochabamba, Bolivia. They work to empower children by teaching them creative activities such as artisan crafts, and performing and visual arts as healthy alternatives for avoiding drugs and delinquency, while also improving their economic well-being. They are a youth-led and managed organization.

The youth whom participate are street and working kids who are supporting themselves or contributing to the support of their families. They are primarily from indigenous communities and outlying areas of the city. The program helps participants improve their living and economic conditions in order to realize a better future for themselves and their families.

Volunteer possibilities:

Music project:

  • Teaching the kids to play instruments
  • Producing songs and tracks
  • Organizing concerts/events

Women’s weaving cooperative project

  • Managing the weaving cooperative
  • Developing investment projects with women to improve economic status

Both positions require an intermediate level of Spanish and a minimum 3 month commitment.




The town of Independencia is nestled in an isolated valley of the Cordillera Oriental of the Andes at 7,400’. It is the capitol of the municipality of the same name. The town sits northwest of Cochabamba, and there is daily bus transportation for the 7-9 hour trip.

Project Artesanía Zona Andina (AZA)

Weaving volunteer projectvolunteer in south americaThe goal of the project is to revive cultural expression through traditional weavings and find markets for the woven products to supplement rural incomes in a dependable manner. Weaving is an activity the women can do at home and work around their other chores. In 2007 a workshop was developed for training in the use of natural dyes. That first workshop has evolved into a series of five workshops available to any Womens' Organization.

Volunteer possibilities:

  • Expansion of product line, sewing, weaving, knitting, marketing experience needed
  • Improvement of current products, weaving and/or knitting experience needed
  • Training the local trainers in natural dye technique, natural dye experience needed
  • Creation of promotional materials, Photoshop experience
  • Soap making workshops, Soap from local materials for washing wool (and people)

Youth Development

Volunteering with youthVolunteering with youth in BoliviaIndependencia is the school district headquarters for the municipality. Most of the communities have a school through 3rd or 5th grade, only five communities have schooling through high school graduation. Rural families must send their children to a larger community to complete their education. School housing is limited, so many rural children live on their own. The lack of study skills and structure in their lives results in many having to repeat grades.This project will work with these children.

Volunteer possibilities:

  • Cooking classes including hygiene and nutrition components
  • Tutoring
  • Mini-courses in English, computer skills
  • Business Simulation
  • Day camps during summer vacation
    • Redo Plaza wall mural
    • Environmental education with field trip(s)
    • Weaving and natural dyeing to involve youth in Project AZA
  • Train the trainers: Teachers work long hours because of all the extra curricular activities, however, mini-courses in interactive teaching techniques to complement youth development workshops would expand the sustainability potential of the volunteer projects.

All positions require intermediate Spanish and a 4 to 6 week commitment.

Things to think about when considering a volunteer position in Independencia:

  • Health – Independencia has a hospital with Bolivian and Cuban medical staff, however, it is a long trip to Cochabamba for complete medical services, including dental. 
  • Language – It is recommended that volunteers are comfortable conversing in Spanish. Spanish courses can be arranged in Cochabamba.
  • Flexibility and an open mind – The concept of time is different in rural Bolivia, and a meeting agenda serves only as a guideline. Meetings start late and often take a windy road to their conclusion, but on reflection the volunteer will be surprised at what was accomplished.
  • Sustainability – A volunteer must always question whether their actions and activities are sustainable and their legacy sets realistic expectations for future volunteers. It is easy to gift money or items to alleviate guilt in the face of abject poverty; however, it is a disservice to the recipients and future volunteers if not done in a sustainable manner. The volunteer will leave the program with an intimate understanding of the concept of “sustainability”.

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