By Alexa Ballard

Being an intern for Yapay Bolivia has been nothing short of life-changing. When I first started in May of 2020, I expected to find people like me who loved Bolivia and wanted to help the women and children there. What I was not expecting was to find a full-fledged healthcare nonprofit organization with people who ate, slept, and breathed for Bolivia and who were ridiculously passionate about helping the women and children there. I fit right in with their obsession with salteñas (the famous sweet and savory empanada-like pastry), cholitas (the endearing name given to indigenous Bolivian women), and the desire to make a difference for those in the “heart” of South America.

Having a pair of fresh eyes gave me a front-row seat to completed projects and the impact that Yapay Bolivia had achieved. How was it that in only five years, an entire hospital NICU center had been built, a ventilator donated, an international child art exchange happened, all with unpaid volunteers? And how was it that all funds had been strictly through donations from normal, regular people, most of whom had never even been to Bolivia? Low overhead charities are difficult to find, and yet here was Yapay Bolivia, operating with zero overhead, and doing incredible things! What was the secret? 

About the time I was onboarded it was time to update our donors with completed projects, and so a large report was sent out—it highlighted all the amazing projects, people and opportunities made possible thanks to our generous donors, and thanked them for a successful five years. It also told of the most recent project where donors had a chance to give, but this time, not with money. Instead, doctors, nurses, friends and families from around the world donated “hope” through videos of encouragement, love and support to Bolivian families and medical workers. The video was a success and helped keep ties strong during a virtual 2020 year.

All of this together prepared Yapay Bolivia for what traditionally was the largest yearly fundraiser. After a particularly challenging year world-wide, many were feeling the heavy financial setbacks from COVID-19. As a board and interns, we didn’t anticipate that donations would be particularly high that year, even despite the positive impact our ongoing projects were having in Bolivia. We felt that our efforts to connect our people, donate hope, and inform our donors would be good enough for 2020 and that next year, people would be able to contribute financially towards new projects.

Oh, but how we were wrong.

Imagine our surprise when, in the course of only one month, Yapay Bolivia received over $38,000! This is more than Yapay Bolivia had ever received in any other Giving Tuesday prior, including more individual donors than ever before. The number of potential projects, opportunities for growth and scale, and chances to alleviate poverty in Bolivia exploded with this new financial freedom. 

And that was the secret. Despite a pandemic, low overhead charities receiving little funding, and against all other odds, the people are what made and make Yapay Bolivia possible. They truly emulate Yapay Bolivia’s mantra to “give a little more.” The power of connecting individuals and the impact of kindness goes far beyond any country’s limits, even all the way to Bolivia.

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