Volunteers: commitment and passion to help those most in need

Alejandra Molina

There is no specific profile to be a volunteer; Anyone can be part of this group of people whose sole aim is to help those who need it most. Among the non-profit organizations working with volunteers in Cochabamba we find the Gamaliel Animal Shelter and the Bolivian Rescue Volunteer Group, better known as SAR.

In 2018, Nicol Fernández heard that the Gamaliel animal shelter was looking for volunteers to look after the dogs affected by the Mazamorra in Tiquipaya and has been going to the center weekly since then.

She combines studies and work with volunteer work. Cooking, serving, cleaning and, above all, giving love to the rescued dogs.

“We do things that we would never have thought of. For example, selling, cooking, and going out with cans to ask for money. We do everything. We had to learn by force to improve the shelter, ”said Nicol.

Gamaliel works with 22 active volunteers who work seven days a week in fixed morning and afternoon shifts to make sure the animals are fed. There are also occasional volunteers who come less often, but support where they can.

Despite the efforts they make, they become overwhelmed as new dogs arrive in vulnerable conditions every day. That is why they invite the people of Cochabamba to adopt, donate or volunteer the dogs in the center. To become part of the team, Nicol recommends wearing old clothes to do tasks more comfortably and without fear of dirt, wearing a sun hat, water and being helpful.

“It would be nice if everyone who has a little free time devotes it to a good cause,” he emphasized.

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Bolivia Special Administrative Region

The voluntary rescue group Bolivia (SAR) has been working in Cochabamba for 34 years under the motto “so that others can live”. The members are trained in the medical and rescue area.

Nancy Noya, 72, came to the SAR center to take a first aid course and overheard the volunteers raising money to load gasoline that moved her and spoke to them to see how they could work together . It has been 17 years since then and Nancy is still passionate about volunteering.

“I think I have a very special reason. I lost my mother when I was 4 years old, I got rheumatism, I was in a wheelchair for two years. I didn’t know any affection and I think that’s what made me (a volunteer), ”she said.

SAR Cochabamba receives three to five emergency calls a day, many of them are looked after by Nancy, who does not see her age as an obstacle to providing assistance and has no plans to retire in the near future.

“It will depend on God and me. Because I will not wait for death sitting down, but let it run around ”, he explained.

This year, the volunteers of the SAR Cochabamba have received the support of Nacional Seguros, which means that if they are injured during their service they have medical costs covered. This is a big step forward because it used to be the responsibility of every volunteer to pay for their cures. Even so, they seek community support to purchase equipment due to the number of cases they attend and the severity of the cases. They also come at a high price.

“To become part of the Bolivia Special Administrative Region, you must be of legal age, register for the seven-month course, which costs 150 Bolivians, and be ready,” said Jhonatan Hoyos, head of the Cochabamba Special Administrative Region.

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In February 1985 the United Nations General Assembly declared December 5th International Volunteer Day in recognition of their hard, selfless work.



Gamaliel Animal Shelter and SAR run various activities throughout the year to raise funds. This is how organizations are sustained thanks to citizen participation.

During the winter season, Gamaliel volunteers walk the road that connects Oruro-Cochabamba to house the stray dogs at the summit and also to bring toys and clothes for children from the surrounding towns.

They also sell groceries and T-shirts every Saturday from the shelter on Beijing Avenue and D’Orbigny.

Anything ingested is for veterinary services, groceries, and paying for supplies as donations don’t always arrive.

The group of volunteers from Salvation Bolivia is in turn involved in a fundraising campaign 365 days a year. They are collecting donations at their headquarters on Gualberto Villarroel Avenue and are now also walking with cans to solicit the contribution from passers-by in Cochabamba. In parallel with emergencies, they also perform other altruistic actions.

“There is not enough money, but we are still running campaigns to help other disadvantaged sectors,” reports Bernardo Araníbar, coordinator of the Cochabamba Special Administrative Region.

Every January they collect food and toys to be transported to the town of Maycu Mayu, where they are well received by the local children.

The volunteers do not receive any support from the authorities or the state.


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