Bolivia holds a special place in the history of CHOICE Humanitarian, as the first country we worked in. In 1988 CHOICE Humanitarian was informally organized and launched its inaugural expedition to Bolivia. CHOICE Humanitarian became an official nonprofit with 501(c)3 status in 1992. CHOICE is an acronym which reflects the values and guiding purpose of the organization - and stands for the Center for Humanitarian Outreach and Inter-Cultural Exchange. For the full story on the history of Bolivia, refer to our founder’s story.
It was during this time that the current Director of CHOICE Bolivia, Willy Mendoza, began working for CHOICE as a volunteer. Willy and Maxima Mendoza were appointed to be Co-Directors for Bolivia.
CHOICE has flourished under Willy and Maxima’s leadership, improving the lives of many villagers in hundreds of communities surrounding La Paz and Lake Titicaca on the Altiplano of Bolivia. They have built schools, community centers, health posts, greenhouses, installed hundreds of water pumps, and designed and constructed community water systems for many villages and towns on the Altiplano. They have worked tirelessly to multiply their resources by partnering with other NGO’s and getting government funding to reach more of their people, the Aymara. The CHOICE team became experts in water technologies and used their skill and knowledge to impact an entire region of Bolivia.
Willy learned development principles from Dr. Mayfield directly, establishing the groundwork for CHOICE’s development models over the coming years. Willy embraced the ideology of sustainable and iterative development, learning from the successes in Bolivia, and around the world. Willy and his team launched some their local initiatives, including “Mi Escuelita.” This project was based on sustainable food production and developing healthy food production capabilities in the villages. The CHOICE team would bring potable water, help the community build a commercial greenhouse, plant trees, and teach the community about health, nutrition and greenhouse gardening. CHOICE’s methods and water pump systems were perfected by learning from hundreds of installations across the region. Today CHOICE’s process and tools are widely considered the pump of choice on the Altiplano.
The history of CHOICE in Bolivia is not complete without mentioning two of CHOICE’s longest standing employees, German Lara and Felix Vargas. They have been with CHOICE since 1992 and to this day continue to make amazing contributions to the CHOICE operation. The organization would not be where it is, would not have accomplished what it has, without their tireless efforts.
Upon taking over the organization in 1999, Willy, an Aymara native, worked very hard to establish and maintain important relationships with local community and municipal leaders. Willy uses these relationships to leverage municipal funding in partnership with CHOICE donations and community efforts. This allows Willy’s team to multiply the impact of their work and donations, creating the greatest possible impact. CHOICE Bolivia has become a gold standard for excellence and leadership in sustainable development in the region.