5 days out: Background on Bolivia

Less than one week to go before our team of 11 is in Bolivia, we're printing our travel itineraries and making dinner and to-do lists to leave at home while we're gone.

In a team phone call last week, I shared a trip brief (thanks to the assistance of many of my esteemed colleagues) with our team that provides cultural and political context to the areas we'll be visiting, photo and video guidelines, and key contact information. The portion below -- with facts and info about World Vision's work in Bolivia -- we're sharing with you as extended team members joining us (via our blogs and Twitter) in Bolivia, July 30-August 7. More to come later this week...

BOLIVIA, officially the Plurinational State of Bolivia

  • Bolivia, named after independence fighter Simon BOLIVAR, broke away from Spanish rule in 1825; much of its subsequent history has consisted of a series of nearly 200 coups and countercoups
  • Nicknamed “El Corazón de Sudamérica” (The Heart of South America) because of its location in the middle of the continent
  • Bolivia shares control of Lago Titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake (elevation 3,805 m [almost 12,500 ft.), with Peru
  • There are three official languages spoken in Bolivia (lucky we'll have a translator with us): Spanish- 60.7%, Quechua- 21.2%, Aymara- 14.6%
  • We'll be celebrating the Bolivian independence day while we're there on August 6 (1825; from Spain) in the capital city of La Paz
  • Currency is called Bolivianos
  • (Source: World Factbook)


  • Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. Over 8 percent of Bolivians are unemployed, and about 60 percent live below the poverty line.
  • Income distribution among Bolivians is extremely uneven; as of 2010, the country has the seventh highest income inequality in the world.
  • Indigenous groups have limited access to healthcare and many Bolivian families do not have adequate sanitation.
  • Child malnutrition rates remain high throughout the country. The World Food Programme estimates that about a quarter of Bolivian children under the age of five suffer from stunting.


Bolivia U.S.
Population: 9,694,000 311,666,000
Land mass: 424,164 square miles 3,794,100 square miles
People per square mile: 23 82
Life expectancy: 66 years 79 years
Literacy rate: 90% 99%
Access to safe water: 86% 99%
Average annual income (GNI/capita): US$1,460 US$47,580
Primary school enrollment: 78% 92%
Religion: Christian: 100% Christian: 78.5%Jewish: 1.7% 

Buddhist: 0.7%

Muslim: 0.6%

Unaffiliated: 12%

Other or unspecified: 2.5%

None: 4%

(Sources: UNICEF and the World Factbook)


World Vision is committed to partnering with the people of Bolivia to improve their lives and to help enact sustainable solutions for the future of their children, families, and communities. World Vision’s child sponsorship program plays a vital role in this partnership, with donors from the United States sponsoring more than 23,225 girls and boys.

In addition to sponsorship, World Vision operates other programs that benefit communities in Bolivia including:

  • Improving food production and reducing the rates of child malnutrition.
  • Responding to natural disasters and emergencies with relief supplies, as well as helping communities increase their disaster preparedness.
  • Encouraging children to remain in school and lowering dropout rates by increasing the quality of education through training of teachers and providing mentoring programs. Special bilingual curricula have been developed for indigenous children.
  • Offering small loans to disadvantaged Bolivians, allowing them to generate income through agriculture, raising livestock, neighborhood services, and local trade.


Flying into: La Paz (full name Nuestra Señora de la Paz, or Our Lady of Peace), which is Bolivia’s administrative capital, and is the highest capital in the world at about 12,000 feet. (Source: Wikipedia: La Paz)

Staying in: Cochabamba, which has been called the "City of Eternal Spring" and "The Garden City" because of its spring-like temperatures year round (Source: Wikipedia: Cochabamba)


  • Families in Bolivia who are caught in a perpetual cycle of poverty and are struggling to survive.
  • Safety for those in Bolivia who are affected by natural disasters.
  • The inclusion of indigenous people for health and education services

Please also be praying for our team and the World Vision staff we'll be meeting up with in Bolivia as we pray for our trip and our readers. Our prayer is that all of our hearts would be open and willing to the things experienced and blogged ahead of us.

Follow our trip to Bolivia and read the posts we've already written.

Sponsor a child in Bolivia.


    I just sponsored a little girl (Daysi)from the Unete program. I excited that you are exploring Bolivia. I will be following your adventure.

    Super excited that you're now a sponsor of a precious little girl in Bolivia!!! I hope we all learn a ton more about the impact of child sponsorship on our trip. Thanks for your support, and comment lots on our posts with your questions and thoughts. Your feedback will be extremely valuable as we write!

    I have an adopted daughter from Santa Cruz Bolivia and have served with a surgical mission team at the Mission of Hope Hospital in Santa Cruz, and will be serving again in April. I will be following your blogs as well and pray for your health and strength as you travel.

    Excited to have you "on our trip" with us, Robin, through our blogs and tweets. I hope you and your daughter find our posts intriguing and informative. Blessings!

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