My experience at CIWY

I first came to volunteer with CIWY on my first trip to South America back in 2006. After finding the project on an internet search, I was driven by my love of animals to come help for a month. I didn’t know what I would be doing or what to expect but I really believed in the idea and philosophy of the project. That first month in Machia, far too easily, turned into 6months. That 6months has continued until this day. I have returned almost every year for stays of about 6-12months at a time. I have been able to grow with CIWY over the years, learning how to manage animals, people, a small community, accounts, construction projects, training sessions and crisis – all of this and more while living in remote locations with few resources! It’s a steep learning curve with many challenges but so rewarding. I whole heartedly believe that what you put into your time with CIWY you get back ten fold!


During my years I have filled a variety of roles for the community, in all three of their centres. Some of these roles were to fill a need at the time and some of these roles were to take advantage of my knowledge and experience. The biggest role for myself –and most of our co-ordinators- is managing the people. Most of us come to work with the animals and forget that with between 20-60 volunteers and staff, someone needs to be overseeing that everything is going smoothly for our humans too. This can be tricky even for the best of us. It’s been a great experience to learn how to manage and help people from all over the world working together. Not only are most of our volunteers new to this work but most of our volunteers have not worked in such an international group. Language barriers are not the only hurdles you learn to overcome but there are also differences in culture, age, comfort levels and learning styles between us all. This was a little overwhelming in the beginning as I had never managed people before. It can be difficult sometimes to deal with situations when at the end of the work day we all live together. It is hard when you can’t make everyone happy and all you want is for everyone to have the amazing experience you had. Luckily, the CIWY family is so supportive, I could always message or call Nena, te president, or a previous co-ordinator for help and advice! I feel over the years I have come a long way in learning how to manage people. I still have a lot to learn but I now have a good understanding of where my strengths and weaknesses lie.


The easiest and most fun part of my work has been learning how to handle, train and look after the different variety of animals CIWY cares for. I grew up always having pets so I had a basic understanding of animals and their care but there are some things you can only learn in places like this. I have been fortunate to work alongside veterinarians from Bolivia, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Colombia- to name just a few. But the work here also attracts students and professionals from other fields such as biology, conservation, farmers, animal trainers etc. The ability to work and live with these types of people means I have been exposed to so many different knowledge basis and I have learnt a lot of practical information. Learning from people who have these skills and then being able to apply the knowledge to better care for our animals is something you can’t learn in any class. I am now in a position that I am skilled to help our animals by developing management plans for their handling, writing training manuals for new volunteers and staff and to cross check our practices with professionals. All of this to ensure the best care we can possibly give to our animal friends is achieved. Since starting with CIWY I have done short periods of time volunteering on farms, an animal rescue center, a zoo, a primate sanctuary, a dog sanctuary and a husky safari company. I really feel confident in my experience and knowledge when entering a new facility, in any country, and see it as a great way to be able to learn more to be able to take back and help the animals cared for by CIWY.


Whether you are interested in gaining skills in animal husbandry, people management, fund raising, international business, accommodation management, tourism, wildlife photography, teaching English or Spanish, community living or just living off the grid without a tv then I want to suggest you take some time and join us here in the Bolivian jungle.

Posted on Apr 17, 2018 by

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    Our Partners

    Friends of Inti Wara Yassi (FIWY) is our sister organization in the UK. They have been a major source of support since their founding in 2008. Find out more about FIWY here.

    Quest Overseas organizes gap year trips for British and international students. Since 2001, Quest has worked with CIWY to bring much needed volunteers and funds. If you are interested in the programs they have with us, find out more here.

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