Looking into the organization further we were touched by the story of how a Bolivian couple in the late 1980's, in the hopes of making a difference in Bolivia, established a school of alternative education outside of La Paz for the many children of miners who had relocated to the area. After being exposed to the lush surrounding rainforest and its ruthless destruction, the children vowed to protect the fragile rainforest and its animals through a campaign of education and awareness. During a later field trip to Rurrenabaque, the project took an important shift after the kids pooled together their meagre funds to purchase and rescue a spider monkey from its local owners who were forcing it to drink alcohol and dance for their amusement. Over the next few years, a number of other animals were adopted and rescued, despite the constant struggle to figure out what to do with them. Finally, Parque Machia, the first wildlife refuge in Bolivia, was established.
For nearly 20 years now, professionals and volunteers from all over the world have been supporting this cause through the raising of funds and the donating of time. The organization now manages three parks in Bolivia where upwards of 500 animals of over 30 different species (including bears, cats, birds, monkeys, coatis, and foxes) are cared for.
We were quick to forgive the outer appearance of the office after being hailed by other volunteers watching from the cafe. On the inside, the place was humming with activity: volunteers chopping food for the monkeys, hauling hay and trees for the cats and bear, unloading endless truckloads of bananas, and disposing of bucketfuls of animal waste. Everyone looked very enthusiastic!