5 charities operating in BoliviaFor 20 years, Bolivia’s poverty rates have spiraled downward due to wage increases and strongly supported social programs. For those still in poverty, there are at least 5 charities operating in Bolivia to improve the quality of life in the nation.

Bolivia’s Progress

Bolivia has made significant progress in reducing poverty. In 2009, about 40% of Bolivians lived in conditions of extreme poverty. More than 10 years later, in 2020, that percentage decreased to 4.4% (based on the 2011 Purchasing Power Parity of $1.90 a day).

Much of the credit belongs to Bolivia’s former president Evo Morales. He used income from nationalized industries and “the commodities boom,” during which the international prices of Bolivia’s key exports grew 800% between 2000 and 2014, to fund schools, hospitals and other infrastructure. Morales also raised the minimum wage multiple times and set up social programs to support vulnerable groups, such as senior citizens and pregnant women.

Current Issues

Even with all of Bolivia’s success, issues persist. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), about 16% of Bolivian children face stunting due to malnutrition. Furthermore, anemia affects almost 54% of children younger than 5. Marginalized groups, such as people with disabilities, struggle to find work or attend school. Fortunately, these 5 charities operating in Bolivia are addressing these issues.

5 Charities Operating in Bolivia

  1. Fundación Bolivia Digna. The first of 5 charities operating in Bolivia is Fundación Bolivia Digna. This nonprofit was set up in 2006 to protect the rights of vulnerable young people and other marginalized groups. It is based in the city of Cochabamba, near the center of Bolivia. With more than 250 Bolivians and almost 240 international volunteers helping over the years, Fundación Bolivia Digna provides children with a “safe environment” to receive educational support and promotes good hygiene habits and positive influences. Volunteers help children with homework, lead creative activities like singing, dancing and instrument lessons, teach English courses and run sports activities. Fundación Bolivia Digna has helped more than 200 children from roughly 100 families.
  2. Help Bolivia Foundation. In 2018, Matt and Lydia Hill established the Help Bolivia Foundation to give disadvantaged women and children access to educational and nutritional resources. Operating in the Tahuantinsuyo Community Center in El Alto and in Villa Ingenio, Help Bolivia Foundation provides children with health, education and lunch programs. In 2020 and 2021, the foundation used grants to purchase tablets for online classes. In 2022, the foundation used a grant to run a year-long Sewing & Entrepreneurship Training Program for 30 Indigenous women. Other classes include cooking classes and painting classes.
  3. Aktion Sodis. Another one of the 5 charities operating in Bolivia is a German nonprofit called Aktion Sodis. It operates within the mountainous Micani region south of Cochabamba to help the locals improve their food security and access clean water and education. One of Aktion Sodis’ current projects looks to improve food security by creating “resilient food systems and sustainable agriculture” adapted to the Micani region’s extreme weather conditions, the website says. The project began in 2017 when Aktion Sodis (along with a Bolivian vocational school) established water-efficient irrigation systems for four village school gardens. These improved gardens now have rain-fed water storage and drip irrigation systems. The project later “expanded to all 16 village schools in the region.” Currently, Aktion Sodis is building solar tents over six of the school gardens to create a “microclimate” suitable for growing vegetables outdoors. For the upcoming phase of the project, Aktion Sodis will focus on families. The organization will help families create or extend food gardens and will give lessons on “balanced nutrition and sustainable agriculture.”
  4. Bolivians Without Disabilities. Matt Pepe founded Bolivians Without Disabilities in 2015 after living in Bolivia for years. Around 15% of Bolivians have some type of disability, according to the organization’s website, equating to more than 1.5 million people. Seventy-five percent of Bolivians with disabilities are unemployed and less than 40% of children with disabilities attend school. Bolivians Without Disabilities helps people by providing prosthetic limbs, raising awareness in the United States and funding other organizations that help Bolivians with disabilities.
  5. Smiles Forever Foundation. Smiles Forever, founded by dental hygienist Sandy Kemper, provides free dental care to children and hygiene education to Bolivian women near Cochabamba. Since 2000, Smiles Forever has helped more than 60,000 children and has placed 37 Indigenous women in its two-year dental hygiene training program so that the women can become professional dental hygienists. Educating women not only helps them make better dental hygiene decisions for themselves and their families but also increases their self-esteem and independence in a society rife with gender inequality.

Even with economic success, NGOs like these 5 charities operating in Bolivia are needed to educate and lift people out of poverty. In time, the knowledge gained from these NGOs will spread and Bolivia will be a better place for it.

– James Harrington
Photo: Flickr