The Novogratz Bridge Year Program in Bolivia introduces participants to a variety of social and economic concerns facing this astonishingly diverse nation. Participants live with homestay families in the semi-rural community of Tiquipaya, located on the outskirts of the vibrant metropolis of Cochabamba. Host to a wide range of important social, cultural, political, and environmental organizations, Tiquipaya and Cochabamba are ideal places to explore contemporary issues in environmental preservation, indigenous heritage, and the nation’s current political transformation. Working with local service partners, participants support community development initiatives in human rights, environmental education, climate change, the arts, gender equity, LGBT rights, and public health. Along the way, Bridge Year students deepen their understanding of local culture, develop their language skills, and visit some of Bolivia’s most captivating places.
In Bolivia, Princeton University partners with Where There Be Dragons, an organization specializing in overseas experiential education. Since their founding in 1993, Dragons has managed hundreds of unique small-group service learning programs in Asia, Latin America and Africa. Dragons is dedicated to inspiring youth leadership and responsible global citizenship through community-based service projects and cultural exchange.
Bridge Year is about building collaborative community relationships. Through community engagement, students learn to become more effective citizens, with a greater capacity to contribute to making a more just and equitable world.
In Bolivia, the program currently partners with the following local organizations:
- Kusi Kuna Escuela Ecoactiva is a small alternative school and learning community that strives to nurture the growth of young people in ways that prepare them to face the challenges of our modern world. Kusikuna is situated on a small farm with sustainable, ecological structures and works with children and families from a diversity of backgrounds. Volunteer opportunities depend on the volunteer’s interest and skill set but could include developing an arts or music program, leading after-school and athletic activities, supporting the agro-ecology program, teaching in the natural sciences, and community and family outreach.
- Fundación EnseñArte/Performing Life is an arts-based NGO that supports children and adolescents who are working and/or living on the streets of Cochabamba. The organization provides skills training in the circus arts and other creative activities that boost income-earning opportunities for children and their families while ensuring school retention and safer livelihoods. In addition to arts workshops, EnseñArte provides after-school support with homework, a music program, meals for the kids, and a micro-credit program. Volunteer opportunities include supporting arts and music workshops, facilitating tutoring and after-school programs, English language teaching, technological support, and documentation of the organization’s programs and activities.
- Mano a Mano supports rural communities through comprehensive projects in health, education, and infrastructure. Mano a Mano’s primary work is to build clinics, schools, and roads and provide training for local professionals in health and education. The organization also provides medical supplies to clinics around the country, enhances access to clean water, and facilitates training in agro-ecology and environmental conservation. Volunteer opportunities include supporting agro-ecology projects, environmental education initiatives, construction projects, and training programs in mechanics and furniture making.
- Infante provides psychological support, skills training, and safe living spaces for women and children who have suffered domestic abuse or other forms of violence. The organization also engages in research, public policy initiatives, and awareness campaigns promoting principles of respect, dignity and equality. Lastly, Infante operates a Montessori-inspired primary school. Bridge Year volunteers typically support the English-language program at the Montessori school.
- mARTadero is a multidisciplinary arts center whose principal aim is to promote social development through art and culture. Their activities include art workshops, urban revitalization events, environmental awareness trainings, and support of the local arts movement. mARTadero also provides financial support to young emerging artists. Volunteer opportunities depend upon volunteer skills and interests, but may include facilitating arts workshops and assisting with community outreach, as well as publicity and marketing.
- La Fundación Abril founded in 2002 in the wake of the Cochabamba Water War, is a grassroots organization that advocates for water rights in the city of Cochabamba. The organization’s mission is to work collectively with communities to develop democratic and alternative political processes in water management. Currently, they also work closely with local schools to build water catchment systems and school gardens. Volunteers typically support Fundación Abril’s school projects and/or provide administrative support.
- The Bolivian Institute for Human Development (IDH) works to improve the quality of life of the Bolivian people through research, education, and activism in the fields of public health, human rights, and environmental justice. IDH is one of Bolivia’s leading organizations in the research, prevention, and treatment of HIV/AIDS. Volunteer opportunities include supporting HIV/AIDS prevention education programs in local schools, organizing and participating in public health festivals, assisting with advocacy work, grant writing, web design, editing, and general administrative support.
- Program Location: Tiquipaya, Bolivia
- Country Name: Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia (Spanish)
- Population: 11,509,580 (Bolivia); 53,904 (Tiquipaya)
- National Symbol: llama, Andean condor
- Languages: Bolivia's 2009 constitution designates Spanish and all indigenous languages as official; 36 indigenous languages are specified.
- Religions: Roman Catholic 76.8%, Evangelical and Pentecostal 8.1%, Protestant 7.9%, other 1.7%, none 5.5%
- Currency: Bolivianos
- Fast Fact: Bolivia has the world’s largest salt flat, which covers 10,582 square kilometers (4,086 sq mi) of the area and is 3,656 meters above sea level. It is almost 100 times larger than the famous Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.