Junior Kelly Wehrmeister builds an orphanage for children in Bolivia through HEFY


Courtesy of Kelly Wehrmeister

Holding hands with a student in Cochabamba, junior Kelly Wehrmeister spends her breaks dancing and playing with the local children. On the few days they had off, the group went cave spelunking and visited the tallest Christ statue in the world. “I’m the happiest when I’m serving others,” Wehrmeister said.

After joining the Humanitarian Expedition for Youth (HEFY), junior Kelly Wehrmeister spent two and a half weeks in Bolivia exploring the Amazon, connecting with her faith and building an orphanage for children in the city of Cochabamba.

“I was on a waiting list for the trip but luckily someone canceled last minute and I was able to hop in,” Wehrmeister said. “We built an orphanage called La Ciudad de Los Niños for kids going through family issues, whether that be abuse or death.”

Dedicating at least seven hours a day for two weeks to doing manual labor, Wehrmeister worked to fulfill HEFY’s goal of creating an experience that is both exhilarating and exhausting.

“From the beginning, they tell you that the work you’re doing is going to be hard, but honestly that’s what made it more appealing. I was able to put all this effort and hard work into something that had nothing to do with me and everything to do with the kids,” Wehrmeister said.

When she was not busy building or exploring the rainforests around Cochabamba, Wehrmeister immersed herself in the locals’ culture and cuisine.

Courtesy of @hefybolivia.andes on Instagram
Wehrmeister poses with newfound friends in Cochabamba outside the building they transformed into an orphanage.

“In Bolivian culture, it’s disrespectful to turn down food, so you just eat whatever gets thrown at you,” Wehrmeister said. “I ended up eating a chicken heart without knowing it!”

While Wehrmeister was out of the country, her mom took over her Instagram to keep her friends and followers updated with pictures and news about Kelly’s whereabouts and status.

“I didn’t tell many people I was going out of the country and would be unreachable so I thought it was hilarious for my mom to post little updates,” Wehrmeister said. “I never realized how addicted and attached [my phone] I was until they took it away from us at the airport, but I embraced it and bonded with the other kids in my group.”

Along with building an orphanage, HEFY brought the teens to a local school to help them form better connections with the children they were working with.

“One of my favorite memories was on one of the last days when these little kids started coming up to me a lot. I brought out paper and markers for them and they absolutely fell in love! They colored for a solid two hours in my notebook and it was just the sweetest thing,” Wehrmeister said. “Another [favorite memory] is that we started an English program at the school there, and in the class I was teaching we taught them the colors in English, and every time they tried to say ‘white’ they would say ‘gringo’ instead, which is the slang down there for a white person.”

Wehrmeister is grateful for the perspective she has gained during her time abroad.

“[This trip] made me analyze my problems from a completely different point of view. [In America] we complain about our food being too cold when we get it from a restaurant, but in Bolivia, they have to pay to get clean water in stores and they can’t flush their toilet paper. It’s made me realize that in the grand scheme of things, most of my problems aren’t that significant.”