Motorbikes, motorbikes, motorbikes and even more motorbikes. Walking? No. It’s the first observation that caught my attention when I arrived in Riberalta. The fascinating natural wealth of the Bolivian Amazon cannot boast of having public transport. However, motorbikes are not just individual transports. In Riberalta, the seat is always optimized, helmets don’t even exist, four-people families share on bike. In addition, it would be interesting to determine whether they use sunglasses to prevent a potential infection in the eye due to the red and dusty roads or to seduce. It is also curious to note that almost all citizens have fallen off a motorbike. Low awareness and negligence of road safety are alarming.


In this context and as a volunteer of Sustainable Bolivia, I began to think about how I could ease this situation. Our NGO, despite having its focus in Aquicuana Reserve, is willing to cover more areas that require help. The opportunity to open new helplines are fully independent initiatives that require motivation, commitment and creativity to develop. As a member of the Spanish Red Cross and trained in First Aid, I decided to seek support in the Riberalta Red Cross. Although my intention was not going beyond getting a small First Aid manual, I received a warm welcome.  At the end of the day, I got both the first aid guide and an invitation to parade for Bolivia’s Independence Day that I kindly declined.


With this material, first, I prepared a couple of didactic and visual pictures that summarized the contents of the Bolivian Red Cross First Aid manual. With this in hand, I prepared a workshop for the orphanages Sustainable Bolivia collaborates with: Cristo Te Salva and Casa Segura. The good feedbacks made me return to the Red Cross of Riberalta. I felt indebted to them. What if we proposed to expand first aid workshops to all schools in the Riberalta?


What I visualized at the time, and I still see, is a collaboration between Sustainable Bolivia and Red Cross. Riberalta Red Cross, despite thanking me for my proposal, made me realize a reality that required even more basic measures. They do not possess training material for first aid such as semi-automatic defibrillator, or a simple blood pressure monitor. In other words, a different, realistic and less ambitious approach was required.

At the moment, the challenge consists in finding out how to get first aid material so that the Red Cross in Riberalta can teach properly. To do this, one must adapt to the context. Nowadays, crowdfunding is a fashionable fundraising method in Europe or the United States. In any way, the inhabitants of Riberalta do not usually make transfers and it is easier to contribute in cash.  Another option is to ask international organizations for a possible donation. However, this option has limits and here, the contrast between the economic situation of Beni with the other departments of Bolivia comes to light. The Red Cross of La Paz, Santa Cruzor, Cochabamba, are able to self-finance these spendings. In Riberalta, they cannot charge that much for First Aid trainings. And asking money to international organizations, the collected money would be divided among all the Red Cross headquarters in Bolivia, so almost nothing would remain for Riberalta.


In the short to medium term, a humble and effective first option is gradually to raise awareness of the importance of First Aid and the lack of minimum material. As a first step, Sustainable Bolivia will emphasize this social need in local radio. Such initiatives supported by an even larger local donation campaign would be of great value. Similarly, a second possibility would be to contact the Red Cross in Europe, such as Spain. The reality is that the material there is renewed every year and ends up being stored. Good communication between Red Cross Spain and Riberalta could facilitate the recycling of stored First Aid material.


In the long term, it would be interesting to commit local governments by investing in the sustainability of resources for First Aid. In parallel, efforts should be made to create a community of Red Cross donors from Riberalta. In this way, not only would the sustainability of the material be ensured, but also the citizens themselves would feel involved in the establishment of a qualified Red Cross. Finally, these efforts could also extend to the first approach to preparing first-aid workshops in the schools in Riberalta.



Maider Etxebeste