Bolivia Bella is 2 and ½ years old this month. As I look back at how the site has evolved and grown, what amazes me most is how large our online community has become. The site currently has over 50,000 visitors per month and I hear from many of you regularly. I’m not able to respond to every message I get personally because they now number in the hundreds each month, nevertheless I hope you’ll continue to remain involved with our site, contribute your own opinions, comments and stories, get involved in the projects that help us help others, sign up for instant updates, share the site with others, and help us grow by participating actively in some of the projects that help us stay online. This month I’d like to highlight some of the changes and additions I’ve made to the site.

December Highlights!


This year I made a special online appeal. Like every year for the past 13 years, I’ve been “giving my birthday away”. This means that rather than celebrating my birthday I ask friends and family to donate to a project I’ve chosen to support. This year, BoliviaBella site visitors made donations online and made it possible for us to donate dozens of soccer balls to the San Isidro Cultural and Sports Center of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, an amazing neighborhood initiative that has grown to include a huge soccer school for hundreds of kids, wrestling classes, handcrafting, theater and arts, music, and much more, located between two of the poorest and largest neighborhoods in Santa Cruz. The hundreds of boys, girls and young people involved in this center are amazing! To everyone who helped me make this possible THANK YOU - THANK YOU!!!! The center operates solely on donations and needs help throughout the year. Read more here:


Thanks for asking! As I’ve been doing with my virtual “Art Gallery” I’m now working on building a section on Bolivia’s amazing musicians. First in line is Luis Alfredo Gavilano, one of Bolivia’s best classical guitarists. You can listen to him play while you view our photo gallery home page or visit the pages I’m currently working on where you can read his biography and view 5 videos or his new channel on Livestream. Next in line? The pride of Santa Cruz, Piraí Vaca! You can already view AND send their videos as E-cards! Thanks to Alfredo and Piraí for sharing!


Speaking of E-cards, have you seen our brand new, totally awesome E-cards? We now feature 100 new Bolivia-ecards you can use for any occasion. Send a video card or add audio to any of the static photo E-cards in our new E-card gallery. They're a great way to share Bolivia with friends and family so get sending!


WANIDES means Washingtonians pro Niño Desvalido or Association of Washingtonians for Needy Bolivian Children. To date all funds raised by WANIDES have been directed to the Instituto Oncológico del Oriente Boliviano in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. This is the only public cancer hospital in the eastern region of Bolivia. Twenty percent of the patients at this hospital are children. Funds raised have been used to purchase a cardiac monitor, pay for medication and chemotherapy, provide occupational therapy for mothers, and purchase first aid kits for the Red Cross. Wanides was founded by my aunt and some friends and I donate 20% of ALL SALES PROCEEDS from Bella Store ALL YEAR ROUND. Our Bolivian Handcrafts online store features products from all over the Andean region of South America provided by the recently re-launched National Geographic Online Store!


Through my other website for expatriates in South America, I encourage you to donate to one of over 40 projects in 8 countries of South America that need your help now. Click on this graphic to enter my expat site GoSouthExpat.com to see photos and descriptions of these important projects and donate safely and securely through GlobalGiving.com


Our Volunteer section has grown to include many new organizations that need volunteers in Bolivia. Each and every one of these projects is crucial and important in Bolivia. Some of our new additions include Volunteer Bolivia, Sustainable Bolivia, Chuchini Animal Refuge, Empowering Women, International Cultural Youth Exchange, Mano a Mano, and the San Isidro Center. If you’re looking for a way to help Bolivia grow and develop, consider a volunteer trip or simply a donation. You can also help without donating – just read each page and share it on your site, blog or virtual community and help spread the news. BoliviaBella hosts a page on each organization free - and will do so for ANY organization that brings volunteers to Bolivia.


Did you know you can build your own page on BoliviaBella? If you have a travel story, volunteer experience, or any other opinion, comment or story you’d like to share, please visit our Bolivia Forums. Each one contains a form you can use to insert text and even a photo of anything you want to share. Help us provide hotel, restaurant or travel agency reviews! Share with us about your trip to Bolivia. Then link to BoliviaBella on your site or blog (or social community) and share your story with your friends and contacts. Help us make BoliviaBella a truly top-notch, truly first-hand source of information for thousands of visitors each month!

New on BoliviaBella!


You’ll now see that many of our main pages, and some of our most frequently visited secondary pages have Vokis on them. A Voki is a virtual character many sites use to project a voice message. We’re now using Vokis to help engage our visitors (many of them kids and teens) with short, explanatory messages at the top of a page. You’ll see a frame with a “picture” of Bella. Click on the Voki to hear the message on each page. It’s not really me in the picture, but this really is!


Several months ago, on our 2-year anniversary online, we replaced our white background with a green one and announced a new online alliance with WWF Bolivia, the conservation agency. We’re working more and more actively with WWF Bolivia both online and locally each month, to help inform our publics about how truly urgent it really is for all of us to make some real and lasting changes in our daily lives in order to ensure a healthy future for our planet. For this reason WWF Bolivia has contributed pages on some of Bolivia’s endangered wildlife and will continue to do so regularly.

We’re also working on expanding Earth Hour to include other regions of Bolivia (Santa Cruz was the first city in South America to participate in Earth Hour). Our new Climate Change section should be up by January and will include a huge amount of information on how climate change is affecting certain regions of Bolivia, and what needs to be done to slow the loss of habitats and the accelerated extinction of many plant and animal species.

In addition, we’ve added a section on the WWF Bolivia home page hosted on BoliviaBella.com that WWF uses to contribute articles. Scroll down beneath the form to read them. This isn’t a fad. We’re making real changes in our daily living habits – we truly practice what we preach - and we hope to motivate you to do the same. Read more about the reasons we’re going green here or see the wildlife pages WWF Bolivia has contributed:

BoliviaBella is also hosting a page for The Green Hearts Project, an environmental project begun locally in Tarija. This month I introduced representatives of WWF Bolivia and the Green Hearts Project and during a very useful meeting, they informed each other about their plans and projects. As a result, they will collaborate whenever possible and Green Hearts Project has committed to doing everything possible to expand Earth Hour to include the city of Tarija in March 2010. BoliviaBella will be involved in some of the activities planned locally as well and will be featuring and publicizing the activities carried out by these organizations so you can stay informed.


In between monthly newsletters, I post messages on my Message Board telling you about new and upcoming features on the site. I also post links to new pages and/or articles I’ve posted on my news features page. I do this because the site is growing continually and quickly and I can’t list everything new in each newsletter. What’s the difference between the two?

My message board changes continually as I highlight new stuff each day and delete “old news”. It not only contains announcements on changes and additions to the site, but is also where I announce special deals I find for you – such as cheap flights, sales, and other announcements.

The news and features page contains a permanent listing of permanent pages I’ve added to the site and think you might want to take a look at in addition to news on Bolivia and even pages site visitors have added. I don’t delete postings on this page – I simply add to a running list of links. Just click on the Bolivia News button on your left-side navigation bar or on this banner (which you’ll see at the top of our Bolivia News page) to access our Features page so you’ll not miss a thing between issues of this newsletter:


Have fun exploring our new sections and features and keep in touch! Put a link to BoliviaBella on your site or blog. Download our BoliviaBella toolbar (which contains TV channels, a radio, an email notifier, tons of other cool features, and direct access to BoliviaBella from your computer screen any time, any day! Continue to visit us online, contribute through our forums, and send me messages! They keep me going!!!

Stay informed throughout the month

The Message Board is where I post messages about things I think you might be interested in throughtout the month. Anything goes as long as it’s useful! Check it out daily – things change here quickly. You can also sign up to my RSS feed to get updates each and every time I add or modify a page. It’s the best way to stay informed between issues of this Ezine! You'll find interesting news, great flight deals, reviews of new books about Bolivia, highlighted articles, and anything else that's useful to Bolivia tourists and expats.

Help Bella Raise Funds for Wanides.org

Wanides.org (Association of Washingtonians for Needy Bolivian Children) is a non-profit organization established by my aunt Margarita Hassenteufel and a group of Bolivian women who live in the Washington D.C. area. They raise funds every year to donate hospital equipment, clothing, and many other types of items to children's charities and children's hospitals in Bolivia. I just had to be a part of this somehow so I pledged to donate 20% of ALL sales made at Bella Store to Wanides. Visit their website for info. Check out all my Bolivia designs at Bella Store.

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Link to BoliviaBella.com

Grab a link to BoliviaBella.com and link your website or blog to BoliviaBella to access this site easily and see when I make changes or add new pages and sections. (You can also click on the orange RSS button in the top left corner of EVERY page on this site to add BoliviaBella to your RSS feeder, or click on any of the SHARE buttons on the BOTTOM of every page so you can add BoliviaBella to your personal page in Facebook, Technorati, MyYahoo, Google, and many others). To grab a link, click here:

Welcome to all our new subscribers!

We had a lot of new BELLA NEWS subscribers this month - welcome to the BoliviaBella online community. For those of you who don't yet know, "Bella" is actually an American living in Bolivia. She works as a professional translator and interpreter and also spends countless hours designing this site just for you! Find out who is Bella really??

As you can see, we've been very busy working super hard to grow and improve BoliviaBella.com and make it the number one English site on Bolivia. Parts of the site are also being translated into Spanish due to the large number of visitors we have from Spanish-speaking countries. We're always looking to improve - this site is FOR YOU so be sure to let us know what you want to see included on BoliviaBella.com - we're not on our way to NUMERO UNO for nothing - we're working very hard to get there!! Please direct your comments to webmaster "Bella". Tell Bella what you want!


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