Why Do We Operate in Bolivia? Comparisons with Illinois

Written by: Eric Kim

Where we work in Bolivia

The healing power of medicine knows no linguistic, cultural, or geographical boundaries. This is something we know to be true after 81 mission trips to Bolivia. In partnership with Puente de Solidaridad, Solidarity Bridge has worked to advance surgical technology and knowledge in Bolivia for nearly 20 years.

But why Bolivia? A simple reason might be the connections of our founder. Juan Lorenzo Hinojosa, born in Bolivia, created Solidarity Bridge as a way to serve people in need through the embodiment of solidarity. Bolivia is also the poorest country in South America, with more than 60 percent of the country living in economic poverty.  

In an effort to vividly illustrate the need for our work, public health professional and Solidarity Bridge volunteer Vatsla Sharma developed a side-by-side comparison of a few key statistics between the country of Bolivia and the state of Illinois, where our office is based. As the table below shows, the population sizes of Bolivia and Illinois are actually quite comparable, but the similarities end there.

Eric Stats.png


These few statistics illustrate how different the resources available to Bolivians and Illinoisans can be. While Bolivia has made important strides over the past decade to expand access to primary health care, a majority of Bolivian people lack access to the medical care they need, particularly advanced surgical treatment. It is this inequity that Solidarity Bridge missioners, staff members, and supporters—working in partnership with Bolivian staff and professionals—seek to overcome.

What these numbers fail to show are the stories of the real people missioners have met and interacted with over the years. Ours is a shared mission. In mutuality, US missioners work side by side with local medical practitioners, like Dr. Jaime Vallejos and Dr. Patricia Lopez, to ensure that quality surgical care is accessible to those who need it. By building meaningful partnerships based on mutual learning and respect, Solidarity Bridge will continue to dedicate its efforts to changing the narrative of surgical care in Bolivia for the better.


Year and source of data:

  1. 2016, https://data.worldbank.org/country/bolivia
  2. 2016, https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/IL
  3. 2011, http://www.who.int/gho/health_workforce/physicians_density/en/
  4. 2014, https://members.aamc.org/eweb/upload/2015StateDataBook%20(revised).pdf
  5. 2016, https://tradingeconomics.com/bolivia/gdp
  6. 2016, https://www.bea.gov/regional/bearfacts/pdf.cfm?fips=17000&areatype=STATE&geotype=3
  7. 2015, http://countryeconomy.com/demography/life-expectancy/bolivia
  8. 2014, https://vizhub.healthdata.org/subnational/usa

Eric Kim, a recent Solidarity Bridge intern, is a Northwestern University biology major who will graduate in 2018. He is pursuing a career in medicine and is passionate about working internationally to fight global health inequity.