Meet Andee Martinueau: yoga guru and meditation-loving mom of six from Arizona. Like any mom running a large and busy family, finding experiences that bring a family together can be near impossible; however, an unexpected opportunity to help in a Bolivian orphanage did just that and changed the Martinueau’s family for good.
Sara Fisk, a close friend of Andee and one of the four founding board members of Yapay Bolivia in 2016, presented Andee and her family with an opportunity to help in Bolivia in 2019. “Hearing the need made us want to help all together as a family,” Andee said. And that’s exactly what they did.
The plan was to travel to Bolivia and visit Lupalaya, a small, quiet orphanage on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Along the cliffs of the highest geographical lake in the world, cold winds blow across the lake in the wintertime, making the thin walls of Lupalaya feel like curtains against a snowstorm. The orphanage relies completely on the community for food shares, which are often hard to come by. Overall, the orphanage struggles to get by.
Hearing about Lupalaya, Andee and her family instantly wanted to help. Together they formulated a plan and each picked a job or a task that would raise money. One Martinueau made cinnamon rolls; another organized a car wash. “We sacrificed a lot,” Andee said. “I wanted my kids to feel like the money donated was money they worked for.” It made all the difference when the family visited Bolivia in August.
The visit to Lupalaya for the Martinueau family was like visiting another world. Everything was different. Andee and her family arrived in a city just outside Lupalaya. Each family member visited local vendors and shops along the streets to purchase food and supplies with the money that had individually earned. “It was so rewarding and meaningful to see each kid buy things to help with the money they had earned,” Andee remarked.
It was finally time to meet the children. When the Martinueaus and the Yapay Bolivia team arrived at the orphanage, they were greeted with open arms and eager faces. Together they spent the day playing with the children, touring the facility, and painting the children’s “commons” area where they eat their meals. “They offered us a beautiful simple meal of fish, potatoes and bread,” Sara Fisk said, describing their generosity and humility. “And [the facility tour] got us even more excited to continue fundraising.”
The overall experience for the Martinueasus was life-changing. “We definitely left thinking, ‘we’ve got to go back,’” said Andee. “There’s more left to do at the orphanage and as a family, we want to make it a regular thing to donate to Yapay Bolivia so it can continue to help the beautiful Bolivian people and children down there.”
Andee and her family have become more unified through “giving a little more” to their Bolivian friends on the other side of the world. Yapay Bolivia’s projects seek to aid already existing community projects, which in turn brings people together. Whether it be starting your own fundraiser, learning about Bolivia, or simply “giving a little more,” you can contribute to the ongoing efforts to make lives better. “I sometimes wonder why our family gets along so well and I realize it’s because of things like this,” Andee remarked. “These experiences that bring us together like this are so powerful.”
Yapay Bolivia is a 501c3 public charity established in 2016. Its mission is to improve healthcare and education outcomes for poverty-stricken women and children in Bolivia. Unique for a charity of its kind,100% of donations received by Yapay Bolivia go directly towards projects and equipment used to help those in need. Currently, Yapay Bolivia is run by its original founders and assisted by five interns. More information regarding Yapay Bolivia can be found on yapaybolivia.org.