Information about Community Santiago de Okola
Directly impacted families:
Project description of Community Santiago de Okola
On the shores of Lake Titicaca is the Indigenous community of Santiago de Okola. From their remote location, they received little support from the Bolivian state. By organizing themselves, they developed community-based tourism initiatives to improve their quality of life and create more opportunities for their children. With a community museum and offers of traditional lodging, they have been able to preserve their Indigenous culture.
For tourists, this experience is absolutely unforgettable. They journey to the “sleeping dragon,” a high and sacred place where the enormity of the lake can be appreciated. Along with interacting with an isolated community, travelers can sample local foods and stay in the homes of locals. A complete immersion in a very special culture.
Involvement of VSocial in Community Santiago de Okola
VSocial has been involved in this project since 2010. We were the only organization supporting them for a long time. Our first goal was improving the infrastructure of two schools, including providing a kitchen and bathrooms, contributing educational materials, paying teachers, and creating a community museum. More recently, we have been contributing to their tourism efforts. VSocial has donated more than €20,000, held dozens of training workshops, and brought travelers to the area with Viventura and other agencies.
Directly impacted families:
Impact of Community Santiago de Okola
Santiago de Okola
Today, the tourism work in Santiago de Okola is a standout of the region. This project has had an impact on the entire community of Santiago de Okola, or about 300 people. More than 20 families are associated with the tourism initiatives directly. Young people have a reason to remain at home and know that there will be opportunities for them. Indigenous women have been key to the development of the tourism program, and now lead the way in its work.
Story about Community Santiago de Okola
Maruja lives on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. She is a member of the Indigenous community of Santiago de Okala, which has dedicated itself to tourism for several years.
Shy when speaking in public or sharing her ideas, Maruja was not interested in being a leader. For years, members of her community asked her to lead the tourism program due to her discipline and ability to complete tasks. She was already fulfilling this role in many ways, though without the official title. Maruja preferred listening and giving advice to a position of responsibility. The idea frightened her. It wasn’t common for women to take on such roles.
Eventually, she decided to break the paradigm. Still fearful, she took on the role of a community leader. From that moment on, everything changed. Maruja was used to fulfilling the requests of others and not asking why things were done the way they were. Taking on decision-making responsibilities resulted in a complete personal transformation. She made herself available to her community and lead those who were wary about participating. In a space usually led by men, she was able to gain respect by putting collective interests above individual ones. She is very proud of how she has thrived in a typically macho society.
Since then, she has accomplished a lot. Along with structuring the organization and its finances, she has put her community on the map when it comes to tourism. Maruja continues to work at involving more locals into the project and making sure the area is managed sustainably so that it does not lose its peacefulness and authenticity.
Maruja’s story is not just about one woman or one Indigenous community. It brings into focus the need to understand a community as a whole as well as the environment they live within. VSocial supports projects like this one as they are key to building more just societies where people have the autonomy to provide for and improve themselves.