Voluntario Global wouldn't be named Voluntario Global if it didn't offer volunteering experience outside of its main base, Argentina, as well. Apart from projects in Mexico, Bolivia is emerging to be a more and more popular destination for volunteers coming to support the projects of Voluntario Global. For four years Voluntario Global has been cooperating with an economic development project in the village of Vallegrande, located 110 kilometres south-west of Santa Cruz, one of Bolivia's biggest cities. The main purpose of this project is to create a second source of income for the local people.
Despite being a rather small dot on the map of Bolivia, Vallegrande is a popular tourist destination, in particular due to it being the place where the body of the notorious guerilla fighter Ernesto Che Guevara was buried, in secret, in a mass grave in 1967 after being arrested and killed in the nearby rainforest. Tourism, as well as agriculture, is the main source of income that funds the development of the area. The majority of tourists coming to Vallegrande come for the 'experience' and not for a state-of-the-art tourist resort. For many years, local people have tried to preserve the tradition and identity of Vallegrande that forms its unique tourist experience. However, due to a lack of good schools and universities, a large amount of the young population emigrates to the larger cities to pursue their professional aspirations, making it even harder to preserve and advance the town’s potential as an attractive tourist destination. Vallegrande's local economic development project that is supported by Voluntario Global aims to leverage the town’s full potential and enhance the quality of life for locals and tourists alike.
Projects that are aimed to support the economic development of Vallegrande are based on five different strategic alliances. Firstly, a so called transformation alliance focuses on using available natural resources and transforming them into consumable goods like liquor or bread that can be sold in markets and local shops. Similarly, the alliance of Artesania aims to create unique works of art that will again be sold at local markets in Santa Cruz or different tourist shops around Vallegrande. The two alliances of alimentation and restaurants especially intend to keep the culinary experience of Vallegrande - including a variety of delicious local dishes - alive and maintain a high quality standard in the restaurants around town. Finally, the tourism alliance has the goal of improving the touristic services offered by providing education and training to the different parties that form Vallegrande’s tourist experience.
Participating in the economic development project, Volunteers have the chance to organize English courses for guides and the staff of hotels or restaurants. Furthermore, they can share their professional experiences if available and support the different strategic alliances in their regular activities. Volunteers help by learning about and raising awareness for tourism and culture in the area. They may do translation work and help the local tourist guides with their tours. Helping students find advice on their schoolwork in the House of Culture (depending on the initiative the volunteer is assigned to) and helping the local farmers with selling their products at local food fairs are other options of engaging in the community.
Volunteering in Vallegrande guarantees exciting insights into the town's community. Volunteers can expect to become an integrated part of the local crowd and will be treated like that as well. This is a place where even small contributions will find high appreciation and leave an essential impact. Closely working together with local people of all genders and all ages will offer a great exposure to the life of the community of Vallegrande. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will bring change to the life of many local people but mostly to your own life. Also, if you liked this story, you might also like: A weekend of colour and salt The importance of teaching language For more information, or to volunteer with one of our projects, visit www.voluntarioglobal.org.