By Matt Daniels
When I first heard about the opportunity to serve the poor in Bolivia, I wasn’t even sure where on earth this country was! After a few Google searches, I was amazed at the many photos of beautiful landscapes and cities. I was surprised and confused. I had heard that Bolivia was the second poorest country in the western hemisphere, and the poorest country in South America. How could such extreme poverty and beauty exist in the same place?
Since I moved here six months ago to be a volunteer with Foundation Arco Iris (FAI) and HOPE worldwide Bolivia, I have come to discover just how true those beautiful pictures are. Bolivia has such a rich culture that has survived throughout many centuries. As a volunteer, I have had several opportunities to explore and experience these breathtaking places…from the valley farmlands to untouched jungles, from swimming in ancient waters to climbing sacred mountains. Bolivia has it all!
Recently, the FAI volunteers were able to travel to the pampas near the small pueblo of Rurrenabaque. Getting to these remote places usually are adventures within themselves! In order to reach our camp, we had to take a short plane ride over mountains, maneuver long muddy roads in 4×4 jeeps, and finally use a boat to navigate the flooded Amazonian rivers. We were about to experience things I had never thought I would ever do in my lifetime. Never did I imagine that I would be laughing at monkeys jumping in our boats and stealing our bananas. Never did I imagine that I would hold and play with baby anacondas. And I certainly never imagined that I would be testing my courage by tugging on the tail of a hungry alligator or swimming with pink dolphins in piranha, alligator, and anaconda infested waters!
When I was a child, none of this ever seemed possible for a young country boy from Hillsborough, North Carolina. Yet today that same kid, who years ago was amazed with all the ancient cities, jungle safaris, and mountain climbing he saw on his television shows…is now exploring ancient cities, jungle safaris, and climbing mountains.
Yes, my heart brought me here to serve the poor and help the children of La Paz, which is an absolute pleasure and adventure in itself. But God has also blessed me with the opportunity to explore and discover the beauty of his creation here in Bolivia. My perspective of the world has certainly gotten a lot bigger since my arrival in Bolivia. And it only continues to grow with every new face I meet and every new adventure I am given.