Volunteering in Yamparaez, Bolivia

(This blog post was originally posted by Deirdre Doran on her blog Cat vs Owl. It is reposted with her permission.)

Kristen and I have been in Bolivia for a couple of weeks now. Part of the reason that we came to Bolivia is to volunteer with an organization called Biblioworks. Biblioworks is a nonprofit organization founded by a Peace Corp volunteer who started a library in the rural town of Morado K’asa.  The demand for more such libraries was high so Biblioworks has helped open 12 small, rural libraries to benefit the people of the Bolivian countryside. While we are in Bolivia we will go to three or four of these libraries near Sucre and try to promote literacy through music. The first library we visited was in the town of Yamparaez. We spent five days in this pueblo reading to the children, writing and playing songs together, and being cultural ambassadors for the USA. It was quite first week!

Deirdre 1Bienvenidos a Yamparaez! It is very common to write messages in stones on the dry, rocky hillsides around here. Yamparaez has about 1000 residents and lies around 20km outside of Sucre. Each day was an adventure getting there and back. We even managed one lift in the back of a pickup, which was great until it started to rain…

Deirdre 2The streets of Yamparaez generally look like this, although sometimes there are more dogs. Not much going on!

Deirdre 3Here’s Kristen in the library leading the kids in song. I read a book to them and then we have some prompts to help us all write songs using ideas from the book. We also have some small percussion for the children to play. They LOVE music, Kristen could just play songs for them and they would be content. The point is to try and get them reading more, though, so we do our best to get them interested in the library. Here we’ve asked them to describe their neighborhood to us, which mostly lead to a long list of animals one can find in Yamparaez.

Deirdre 4A rare moment of concentration before all hell breaks loose! It would be difficult for Kristen and I to control 30 eight years who spoke English- but we are doing our best.  Perhaps the teacher might have accompanied this music class…

Deirdre 5After reading and singing a lot of the children wanted to take a shot at playing guitar.

Deirdre 6I have no idea if any of these kids can understand my accent but luckily they were reading along.

Deirdre 7If we had extra time we would do some drawings of our songs.

Deirdre 8This is the main plaza in Yamparaez where Kristen and I hung out in between workshops. A couple of years ago they found a giant fossil here, which they thought might be a dinosaur egg but turned out to be the shell of this giant armadillo-like mammal called a gliptodon. Egg or shell, they were still pumped enough to make this statue.

Deirdre 9Hanging out in Yamparaez! I’m learning lots of new chords on the guitar during our down time.

Deirdre 10Here is the exterior of the library. I’m not sure what the downstairs room is for, but the library takes up the upper floor. The library closes for siesta so we waited outside for the return of the elusive librarian.

So there are some deets from our first week of volunteering with Biblioworks. Our Spanish is getting better, even though much is still very confusing about Bolivia to us 😃 Next week we will be taking the workshop to the pueblo of Pampa Aceituno. Should be fun!



  1. Erik Smith

    Such an amazing post, volunteering is best way to convert your skills and help others… thanks for sharing this lovely post.

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