A Travellerspoint blog

CISNE and Etta Projects

Two great organizations in Montero, Bolivia

sunny 27 °C

By popular request, more on what I am actually DOING down here in Bolivia.

Well, I volunteer with CISNE, a small organization that gives $300 loans to women to start businesses after a basic course on business skills. It began when Terry Gifford of Sedro-Wolley and the Sanchez family started giving loans to friends of their who wanted some help getting a business started, and grew by word of mouth from there. I met Terry at WWU's International Opportunities Fair and immediately said I would go to Bolivia. The Sanchez' son Papacho is a lawyer here, and he and his father have made CISNE an official organization with the government, and to begin to apply for grants from large donors and foundations, like the Gates Foundation, we need to prove we handle loans well, and have a careful plan for the money. So, I am writing a loan manual with rules and expectations, vision, missions and goals of CISNE, what help and support CISNE provides, where to get extra help, and a contract for the women. Also, I am writing the organization's "campaign plan," an English and a Spanish version, with a fundraising plan, outreach plan, roles and responsibilities of the staff and volunteers, and so on.

One of the most popular and effective ways of administering small loans (read more on Wikipedia if you're dying for more info) is called "solidarity lending" where a group of 5 women are given loans as a group, and the group is responsible for paying them back. Not only does this build a sense of teamwork and provides support for the women, a little healthy peer pressure keeps payments current and friends can help each other out when money is short. CISNE is moving towards this system of loan management, and this is another part of my project, working with the Sanchez family and all available research to make sure we are optimizing all the parameters of the loans.

Check out our website! http://www.swanforhumanity.org/BoliviaBound.html A new fancy one is almost ready too.

We are in a very tight place right now as an organization, so if you can donate anything at all, please use the link online and give what you can. I can tell you the money is well spent. Forward this to any friends who may be interested!

Another great organization working in Montero right now is called Etta Projects: http://ettaprojects.org/.

Etta was a 16-year-old Rotary Exchange student to Montero who died in a tragic bus accident 3 months into her stay. In her memory, her mother started this organization, and they work with rural communities on sanitation, health and water quality, as well as children's nutrition programs in Montero. Because of this, I think CISNE and Etta Projects will be able to collaborate to meet some needs here in Bolivia!

Here are the websites for 2 other microcredit and village bank organizations that work in or near Montero! All are worth looking at, and these two are much older and larger than CISNE:



Posted by isabel1023 20:05 Archived in Bolivia Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Two Weeks' Notice

Montero, Bolivia

sunny 24 °C

Hello all!

I have now been in Bolivia two weeks. I have adjusted to the time difference. I have rubbed the rust of my Spanish. I have learned some new regional words. I have settled into my job, met some great kids, gone to the big city, met up with an old friend from Barcelona, ate some great food, ate some bad food, gone to the hospital, explored various pharmacies, and now, finally, have my own internet! Let the catching up begin!


This is my courtyard! I have a large, clean room all to myself, a fan and a screen. Also, really nice neighbors:


These are some of the kids who live in the other rooms off the courtyard where I live. There's one extended family in several rooms, and other rooms like mine are rented out. It's quite eclectic!

Weekdays, I work in the Sanchez family's house where the office of CISNE is located, around the corner from my house. Sonia and her son Papacho do most of the running of the organization. Papacho is a lawyer and he has made CISNE an official organization with the Bolivian government. I am writing a loan manual for the women, and a "campaign plan" for the organization so they can seek external funding, an English and a Spanish version! I have almost finished these things, and then we'll see what to do next.

The family are wonderful people. They have a lovely house, 4 kids (three adult sons, two are married with babies, and a 12-year-old girl Sarita), two dogs, a parrot and two new little kittens! The parrot loves the bigger dog and tries to bite you if you pet him, but hates the smaller dog, so you can pet her all you want.




As you can see, lots of living goes on outside here. Most houses are built around a courtyard with lots of doors going off into rooms. It's winter now, but not very cold (ask them and they'll say it's freezing and I'm crazy, but it's 60 or 70 out...), and so there aren't any mosquitoes yet, yay! For breakfast I eat sweet bread and hot chocolate called Toddy, and for lunch and dinner I go to a neighbor's house, Florinda, and she cooks excellent yucca soup, chicken soup, a sort of beef stew over rice, empanadas, fried chicken, cabbage salad...

It's hard to avoid all the water here and a few days ago I got really sick and ended up in the ER with an IV...but with a little Cipro all can be cured and today I got to see a friend I met my year abroad in Barcelona. Her name is Aida and she was in the same after school Catalan classes as I was because her family lives here in Bolivia but her dad was working in Barcelona the year I was there. We kept in touch via Facebook, and today she came to Montero where her family lives (she lives in Big City Santa Cruz) and took me to lunch at her uncle's house! It was incredible to see her again, and she's invited me to Santa Cruz next weekend to stay with her!

Posted by isabel1023 14:37 Archived in Bolivia Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Amsterdam, belated

What an unbelievable time!

sunny 40 °C

There are sometimes those showers that are memorable, profound, delicious, and I had one the day I arrived in the Netherlands.

Boston was sweltering, New York was sweltering, Germany was sweltering, Amsterdam was sweltering. I took an Amtrak, a commuter train, an airtrain, a red-eye flight, another airtrain, a high-speed train, a trolley and walked. All those hours later, I arrived at a lovely hostel all sweaty and exhausted. That first shower felt so good, I think I'll always remember it.

I saw the city with a girl with a bunk near mine. Her name is Laura, she is from Toronto, and in a few days we are meeting in San Sebastian. She was meeting up with a brother-sister pair from her hometown, so the four of us wandered the lovely canals. The brother and sister were staying at my second youth hostel, a strange and lovely hippie caravan site several miles out of town on a lake. I headed out there the next day after watching the Netherlands win in a pub full of delighted locals. We all sat in the sunshine, had some beers, played ping pong, hid from a huge thunderstorm and met lots of other travelers. For the Spain game, I rented a bike and rode Netherlands style past elegant modern windmills and cows and swans into the tiny town of Abcoude.

The next day I went to the small town Haarlem, near the coast, asked for the restaurant's special even though I had no idea what it was, and ended up with a great sandwich with sprouts and lox. That evening, back in Amsterdam, I met two charming Polish guys who were living in Great Britiain, and then went back to the one sketchy hostel I had to stay in, with moldy sinks and sagging bunk beds. The last night I had another night at the first hostel, and met up with Laura again, and we had traditional herring sandwiches and took a 4-hour free tour of Amsterdam, learning a great deal; for example, the narrowest house in Amsterdam is only 1.8 meters wide!

It was tough to say goodbye to such a spunky, liberal city, all the coffeeshops smelling like a college dorm, the prostitutes, the canals, the various churches, the bikes...I will have to go back, and I was proud of my last name there!

Posted by isabel1023 12:38 Archived in Netherlands Tagged train_travel Comments (0)


Wish I had brought the talcum powder...

sunny 34 °C

Watching the World Cup in an air-conditioned pizza place, it's easy to forget stumbling in here an hour ago, red and sweaty and parched, and to glance at the people walking by and wonder where are their coats. The nice man behind the counter politely said I must not be from around here. Picked out as a foreigner, and I haven't even left my own country yet! I said no, I am from Deadhorse, Alaska.

The PIH interview is in two hours, and thankfully I have finally located the building. It took a great deal of wandering around sketchy parts of town before I realized I had the wrong subway stop. Oops, GoogleMaps failure #1. But now here we are, cooling off, watching the World Cup, and hoping that there will be a chance to catch the end of the Spain game. July 2nd the Netherlands plays Brazil, so that should be an entertaining game to watch in Amsterdam.

Once I can take off my interview clothes, perhaps some afternoon explorations of Boston will occur. Early train to New York tomorrow to catch the flight to Europe.

Oh my gawd, I miss you awhl so much from Bawston!


Posted by isabel1023 08:44 Archived in USA Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

End and Beginning

A week in Olympia and goodbye to Bellingham

rain 16 °C

Welcome to a glimpse into my trip!

I hope to update this every so often with photos and comments and reflections and updates, for those who are interested in my escapades. Feel free to share the url with anyone.

I miss you all, and love from Olympia! I leave for Boston on Monday, June 28th to interview with Partners in Health. For those of you who haven't read Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, you should pick up a copy and see how Paul Farmer's work in international community-based healthcare is changing paradigms and changing the world. It will explain why I am dying to be a part of this incredible, visionary organization. Tuesday I meet with staff in Boston to see what I can do.

Here's the rough itinerary for the summer:

June 28th and 29th -- Boston, interview with Partners in Health
June 30th -- fly to Dusseldorf
July 1st-6th -- train to Amsterdam, explore the city, my Dutch roots, and day-trip to Leiden's university
July 6th -- train to London to stay with my host sister from Barcelona, Estel, who is studying to become a lawyer and there for a month this summer to further improve her excellent English.
July 8th -- fly to Barcelona and spend several days with Montse and Ramona, my old host family
July 12th-21st -- explore the parts of Spain I have never seen
July 22nd -- take a ferry from Barcelona to Livorno, Italy.
July 23rd-26th -- explore Genova, my Italian roots, and northern Italy's villages and wine country
July 27th-29th -- explore Rome's museums and see the Vatican
July 29th -- fly out of Rome for Bolivia
July 30th -- arrive in Bolivia and work for 6 weeks with CISNE
September 16th -- fly to Miami and then San Francisco to spend a couple of days with my grandparents and aunties
September 20th -- return to Bellingham!!!

For those of you who I haven't told about the work I will be doing in Bolivia, CISNE (or, SWAN in English) is a tiny organization run by Terry Gifford of Sedro-Woolley whom I met at the International Opportunities Fair at WWU in the late winter. The organization gives $300 loans to women to start businesses, allowing them to be self-sufficient, provide for their families, and educate their children. I will be the fourth intern to go, and will help out with all aspects of the operation. Check out the website and photos of some of the new businesses at http://www.swanforhumanity.org/.

PLEASE CONSIDER A SMALL DONATION TO CISNE! They have a minuscule operating budget, and are having trouble paying for things like an internet connection. I have bought all my own airfare with support from my generous grandparents. If you can give anything, it would be greatly appreciated, hugely needed, and extremely rewarding. It only takes $300 to get a woman's business up and running, and when she pays back her loan, it goes to another woman: a gift that keeps on going, paying forward. Just follow the donations link on the webpage.

Keep in touch! I will be checking my facebook and gmail but I currently do not anticipate having cell phone access after the 30th of June. If you will be near my anticipated path this summer, drop me a line! I would love to meet up.



Posted by isabel1023 12:27 Archived in USA Tagged preparation Comments (0)

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