If Volunteers Were a Nation

“Volunteerism plays a significant role in achieving
the Millennium Development Goals. It plays a healing role by 
rebuilding trust in a post-conflict society. And its values –

of solidarity and engagement – inspire us to live sustainably,
so that our human actions do not jeopardize the needs,
or the existence, of future generations.”
Flavia Pansieri, Executive Coordinator for the United Nations Volunteers (UNV)


December 5th is International Volunteer Day, designated by the United Nations to “celebrate the power and potential of volunteerism.” In looking at the website announcing this day, we were intrigued to see volunteerism – a practice we know and love at Global Links – tied specifically to sustainability – another guiding philosophy for Global Links.

This dedication to sustainability was formalized by the organization Volunteer Action Counts, spurred by a return to Rio de Janeiro 20 years after the first United Nations Earth Summit. On their website, they write, “It was recognized that nothing short of a transformation of our attitude and behaviour would bring about the changes that were urgently needed in order to protect the planet from the effects of both poverty and over-consumption.”

Global Links volunteers directly alleviate both poverty and over-consumption, by working with us to recover usable materials and get them sorted, packed, processed and into the hands of people in resource-poor communities who need them.

We are very happy to celebrate International Volunteer Day, and all the thousands of Global Links volunteers, both individuals and groups, that work with us to meet our shared goals. Maybe one day the world will be in such great shape that no one will need to volunteer. Or maybe the term “volunteer” will lose meaning because we all do it, without thinking about it.

In the meantime, we give our volunteers a virtual pat on the back, and invite all of our supporters to visit the website, come in for a tour, share what they know about Global Links and global health with their friends and associates. Look for our facebook posts throughout the day on December 5, highlighting just a few of our many wonderful volunteers.

If volunteers were a nation, according to Volunteer Action Counts, they would form the 10th largest country in the world in terms of population. These are the kinds of numbers than can change the world.


Improving Patient Mobility in Bolivia

In many of the communities where Global Links works, transportation is challenging – unpaved roads, mountainous terrain, and lack of infrastructure make getting to the hospital or anywhere else difficult. For people with limited mobility, the difficulty is compounded, and if crutches, wheelchairs and other mobility aids are in short supply, leaving one’s home for anything can be practically impossible.

Global Links has worked with Unidad de Apoyo a la Gestion Social for many years. This Bolivian social service agency distributes mobility devices to those who have no other source for this essential equipment, and a recent shipment from Global Links contained canes, crutches, walkers and wheelchairs for them.

Wheelchairs, all refurbished by Global Links volunteers, ready to be loaded into the container and delivered to Bolivians who need mobility assistance.

This shipment also contained medical supplies and surgical instruments for Hospital Valle Hermoso, where graduates of the Latin American Medical School (ELAM) are in training. Global Links works to support the ELAM doctors as a way to increase access to healthcare. In 2012 alone, there will be 800 ELAM graduates coming to Bolivia to complete their training. Hospital Valle Hermoso serves a population of 187,067 and requested basic supplies and surgical materials in addition to furnishings.

Another recent shipment to Bolivia is destined for Hospital San Ramon. The hospital serves nine communities, focusing primarily on outpatient care. The furnishings and equipment, including beds, stretchers, scales, bassinets, and many boxes of supplies, sutures and instruments, will make a big difference in this busy hospital. With only nine beds, the hospital still manages a very large outpatient load, seeing an average of 50 daily.

Please read more about our work in Bolivia, and please consider a financial donation in support of it.