Back in La Paz

Well, I’m back in the city and have been trying to get organized from the trip to Villa Tunari last week. Lots of picture cataloging, re-writing notes, documentation, et al from those two site visits. The “not very sexy” activities that have to get completed. But we have started the process of getting things moving with our contractors, and developing our approaches, budgets and plans for both La Mision and San Jose de la Angosta.

In the meantime, I’ve shared a video below. We took some videos of the conversations we had last week (interview style) to help us share each communities’ stories. It’s always great to get their point of view on the projects, ESPECIALLY when you get to hear a language most people have never heard before! Listen for Yuracare sprinkled throughout the interview… enjoy!

La Mision & San Jose de al Angosta

We had a busy week with a couple site visits.  Back in December, you may remember that we went to a few potential project sites near a town called Villa Tunari.  This trip we went back to the same town, but went to much more remote locations!  The two schools we visited were La Mision, and San Jose de la Angosta.  

The first visit was to La Mision, which took about 90 minutes to reach.  They have 10 (!) computers just sitting in one of their classrooms waiting for energy and internet: see the 1st picture below.  La Mision has about 130 kids, most of which are forced down a more vocational/technical path since they don’t have the resources needed for their education.  Could be a great project site for Pidola.

Computers sitting idle

The second was to San Jose de la Angosta.  This school was about three hours from “anywhere”, and we actually had to take a canoe to get to the location: see the 2nd & 3rd pictures below.  They also have 10 (!) laptops that are ready to be used, just no power to use them.  This school has about 120 children, and was unique from the perspective that many indigenous communities send their kids to this school: Quechua, Yuracare & Movima.  

Boat crossing!
Teachers from San Jose de la Angosta

We have lots of work after this trip: planning, budgeting, fundraising.  We’ll keep you posted with our progress, and hope everyone has a nice Holiday weekend!

In Calacoto

One of the areas that I visit the most is a part of La Paz called Calacoto; or Zona Sur.  I don’t mind the commute since I get to take the world’s highest cable car system!  I head down probably once or twice a month to meet with our lawyers and other partners. Where I live in Sopocachi is very nice, but Calacoto is a great part of town.  Lots of nice homes, good restaurants, things like that.  Hoity-toity!

Below is a picture of our lawyer’s building (with the black & red stripes) and one of our partner’s building (Food for the Hungry, aka FH).  If I were going to buy a place in Bolivia, I would consider Zona Sur.

We continue to make bits of progress here and there.  Some of the key steps taken this and last week were:

  • We are going to work on a potential donor here in Bolivia called Viva.  They are a large communications company (think Sprint) that has a CSR department.
  • I am attempting to get Pidola invited to a festival here on July 4th, where a bunch of multi-national organizations are going to be in attendance.  Good opportunity to network!
  • As I type this post, we’re still working to visit potential site locations near Villa Tunari on the 17th & 18th of April.  A larger update will be provided after that trip.
  • Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be working with FH to determine if there are other potential locations for Pidola to enter into… in addition to Villa Tunari.

We are going to be very busy between now and May.  Especially since I’ll be heading back to Colorado for a few weeks… for Michelle’s wedding!  We are all looking forward to that celebration… 🙂

At the US Embassy

Hello, Everyone!  Apologies that it’s been a while since I last connected; it’s been a bit busy with lots of work, travel, and many other “life” things going on.  But, I’ll do my best to be more consistent here in the coming weeks, especially with some of the up-coming project location visits we’re planning in April… I hope this finds everyone is doing well!

One of the more interesting things that I get to do here in La Paz are the conversations I have and potential work with the US State Department.  It was recommended that we connect with the Embassy in Bolivia to: 1) let them know Pidola is working in the country, and 2) determine how they can best support our efforts & activities.  I visited the “embajada” (embassy in Spanish) on Wednesday, and wow, the building is built like a fortress!  I wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside, hence just the outside photos.

It’s always nice to get other opinions with happenings here in Bolivia, both from the nationals’ and expats’ perspectives.  Plus, we established some action items from the visit, as well as some other general non-Embassy updates:

  • Get Pidola involved with the American Chamber of Commerce here in Bolivia to increase our exposure for possible project and funding opportunities
  • Continue to plan on our site visits to Villa Tunari and scope out those individual projects. This is a on-going process from our visits back in December
  • Application to a non-profit accelerator (Global Giving) to increase Pidola’s exposure to new donor and sponsor opportunities
  • Fundraise, fundraise, fundraise!!

I’ll keep everyone posted with our progress here in the coming weeks, especially with our next round of site visits!

In La Paz

Well, it was a great four+ weeks back in the States.  My top priority was seeing family and friends, and it was great across the board.  Plus, I was able to get in some ice and rock climbing, a visit to New York City, a tourist day in our backyard (Philly), and LOTS of food… re-gained nine (yes, 9!) pounds, too.  Still have some work to do on that front.

Now, we’re back to it here in La Paz.  As most know, the first six months were not smooth sailing for me; lots of struggles.  But, it’s good to be back in the city.  Some of the things I experienced were not all a challenge.  I think the kids in Bolivia are adorable (they always crack me up), the street performers are good fun, you can’t beat the weather, the scenery is second to none, and the bakeries!  Yes, my sweet tooth is in full swing again.

Most importantly, we’re back here to do the work… that’s always #1.

We had a good Pidola Board of Directors meeting last week (as always) and Q1 will be busy.  With site visits back to either Villa Tunari or Torotoro, it’s going to be productive from a project standpoint.  We also have a bunch of fundraising opportunities that are in the proverbial “hopper”.  As always, I’ll keep everyone posted with the key highlights.

Also, please keep your eyes open for an email about 2018 taxes… it’s that time of year again! 😉

In New York City

I was in New York City this week, and two things really caught my attention.  First, was my trip up the Empire State Building.  I’ve never been up to the Observation Deck before, and it was a great experience… see one of the pictures below.  The second was that there are SO MANY different types of foods you can get in the city!  Pakistani, Korean, Indian, Japanese, you name it.  I think people (including myself!) take that variety for granted.  That’s something I’m definitely going to miss later this week.

View south from the Empire State Building

We have a lot going on the Pidola front.  Thanks to all who joined us last week to catch up in Denver, and review some of our progress over the last seven months.  Hopefully everyone knows that we couldn’t have gotten this far without our supporters, and we are forever grateful for the support.  It was awesome to see you!

Surrounding what’s coming up here in the next week or so:

  • Pidola has our monthly board meeting this week, where there are always productive conversations.  
  • Regarding our Villa Tunari visit in early December, we have to: 1) schedule time with community leaders to start the conversations around our projects, and 2) continue to work with the Ministry of Education regarding what sites to visit next!
  • Speaking of the Ministry of Education, we have to finalize our partner agreement; hopefully here in January.
  • Pidola is also working to establish a non-profit entity in Bolivia.  This will provide incremental benefits while doing work in Bolivia, versus being a for-profit organization.

We have a big month coming up here in January, so come back next week check in on the progress!

In Ouray

It’s become a bit of a tradition of ours to head to Ouray for New Years.  For those who aren’t aware, Ouray has the largest ice climbing park in the world.  It’s an amazing place, where a group of friends head down to get in some laps, catch up with good conversations, and just enjoy bringing in the new year.  For me, it’s especially important since I get a chance to hear about my friends’ last six months.  Boy, everyone is busy!

It’s been quiet on the Pidola front, since we’ve been focused on the Holidays with family and friends.  BUT, we’re getting back to it this week!  With all of the activity from early December down in Villa Tunari, and planning for 2019, there’s lots to get accomplished.  Accountants, lawyers, budgeting, oh my.

More to follow next week, where I’ll be coming at you from New York City.  Until then, have a great start to the new year!

In Philadelphia

As most of us this week, I’ve come back from Bolivia to spend some quality time with the family for the Holidays.  It’s going to be a whirlwind few weeks while I’m back in the States, with time planned in Philadelphia, Denver and also in New York City.  Plus, some ice climbing in Ouray, which I have to say, I’m very excited about. 🙂

It’s been great the last few days since I touched down.  Being so far away from home, it really makes you appreciate the time you get with family and friends.  I even got in a Philadelphia Eagles game last weekend, which was a blast.  The video below was after one of the Eagles touchdowns…. never a dull moment at the Birds game.

Nothing very new from the Pidola side of things, since we’re focused on the Holidays.  BUT, we’ll be back at it right after the New Years, with a presentation that will be available to all of our sponsors and donors. We’ll get you information surrounding the date and time shortly.  

I’ll also have some updates surrounding Villa Tunari, which our next steps include:

  • Schedule time with the local community leaders to talk about our projects
  • Finalize our feasibility studies for each location to ensure they are an appropriate for Pidola
  • Develop specifications for each location to determine budget required
  • Outline procurement and project management responsibilities for all parties
  • Raise funds to establish each project location

I hope this blog post finds everyone doing well, and that each of you has had a great Holiday season so far! 

Villa Tunari

We had a chance to visit our next potential project locations earlier this week.  It was very exciting to continue to build on the progress we’ve made over the last six (6) months!  And personally, it was an interesting change of scenery for me going from La Paz to a town called Villa Tunari… which is effectively within the Amazon River Basin.  Holy Toledo, it was hot!

The trip started with an early morning wake-up call, and a couple hours’ drive from Cochabamba to Villa Tunari.  It’s a beautiful drive, and I would recommend it (or something similar) to any visitor to Bolivia.  We arrived mid-morning and started our search for about a dozen different schools in the area. 

Using information we were provided by the Ministry of Education, we located nine (9) of the 12 schools (i.e. educational units) near Villa Tunari.  These schools varied in size, having anywhere between 10-500 kids in each school.  I’ve included some pictures below of a couple of them.  Unfortunately, all schools in Bolivia are on their Christmas and Summer Breaks, so they’re closed until early February.

For a peek behind the curtain, our trips entail a lot of data gathering.  Typically, we prefer to speak with the community leaders to start project conversations.  But with this specific trip, our information gathering only included, but was not limited to:

  • Using latitude and longitude coordinates, we have to actually FIND the school… easier said than done.  One of the schools from our list is a two (2) day boat ride to get there
  • Gathering information surrounding the structures (how sound is the roof, which way the roof is facing, etc.)
  • Proximity of the school to a paved road, banks, and other economic indicators
  • Determining power requirements for each location, and other community challenges that our projects may help solve
  • As always, determine next steps and the correct people to continue our conversation surrounding our projects

We have over 180 potential schoolhouse projects just in the Villa Tunari municipality alone, so this is just the start.  Of course, I’ll keep everyone posted in the coming weeks.

Happy Holidays!

School – Villa Gral. Roman
School – Villa Gral. Roman
School – San Mateo Bajo
School – Santa Elena de Los Yuracares
Landscape – Villa Tunari
Landscape – Villa Tunari

At the Protests

Over the last six (6) months, I’ve tried to learn as much as possible while being in a foreign country.  Bolivia is a totally different place, with different cultures, languages, socio-economic backgrounds… you name it.  Growing up and being from Bolivia, the experiences and perspectives can be much different from that of people who’ve grown up in suburban Philadelphia.  Most days I try to embrace and enjoy the craziness and those “learning opportunities”.

One of the biggest eye-openers and experiences that I’ve had surrounds Bolivia’s presidential election coming up in January 2019.  There are multiple elements to this election, and one of the biggest is how their current president, Evo Morales, has changed the constitution that allows him to run past his term limits.  51% of the country does not like this (based on a popular vote in 2016), hence the large-scale protests that occurred throughout the country.

Some pictures of the protests in La Paz against the president extending his term limits are at the bottom of this post.

Anyway, outside of the standard insanity here in La Paz, here are some of the latest and greatest from Pidola!

  • We had some wonderful contributions from our efforts during Giving Tuesday and Colorado Gives Day. Thank you again for all of your support!
  • Our plans for a presentation to our supporters on January 8th are coming together. More to be shared in the coming days.
  • We’re finalizing our partnership with the Ministry of Education, hopefully in the next couple of weeks. I’ll make sure to grab a photo with the minister!
  • Last but not least, I’m planning on our initial site visits to Villa Tunari and (hopefully) Chimore December 17thand 18th. That will be a good update for later in the week.

More to be shared next week, and I hope everyone is have a good Holiday season so far!