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National Volunteer Month Profile: Nora in Bolivia


The green thumb of our missioners has to be Nora Pfeiffer. Most of Nora’s ministries in Cochabamba, Bolivia relate to the environment — from hosting radio shows, helping with retreats, composting, and tending a garden with the children at the Franciscan Social Center where she lives.

The University of Richmond graduate is today’s National Volunteer Month spotlight. Here’s what she says she’s up to in her third year of mission:

“I work on another the weekly radio program called Pulso in conjunction with Maryknoll. Through Franciscans International – Bolivia, I work on another the weekly radio show called Onda Verde. We’ve had some really great interviews lately with:

  • a well-respected Jesuit priest who knew Luis Espinal (a Jesuit tortured and killed here in Bolivia just a few days before Oscar Romero was killed in El Salvador)
  • people from Caritas about a project called Water, Health and Drainage/Plumbing
  • a representative from the archbishop’s office about a letter recently released from the Bolivian bishop’s conference about the universe being a gift from God for everyone (it’s particularly ecological and has lots of Franciscan influence)
  • someone to talk about child prostitution in general and here in Cochabamba. 

I am also part of the Cochabamba commission of Justice and Peace, as well as the Ecology Group. We just finished with an event celebrating World Forest Day in which an agronomist and an OFM spoke about the importance of forests particularly in Bolivia, and also the Franciscan spirituality view of ecology. There were 30 people, which were more than I expected, I think it was a success!

I continue to spend time with the kids at the Franciscan Social Center who are recovering from burns.  The kids frequently ask me to take them to the basketball court of the Franciscans. I really enjoy taking them because it is noteworthy the difference in their attitudes when they are they running around, jumping, playing sports or just laying in the grass. It is very different than being inside the social center almost all day, every day.

Padre Pablo, María Reneé and Nora with some of the enthusiastic kids who helped put together a tire composter.  If you want to start composting yourself, we’ve got some tips for you

The kids and I continue to tend to our little tire vegetable garden. For some months now we’ve been waiting on certain vegetables to reach their peak so that we can pick them, and it’s been a long time coming.

In my waiting, I forgot about the broccoli and it started to flower. I cut it off one afternoon as I was on my way out the door, and when I came back, the kids exasperatedly asked me, ‘What happened to the broccoli? I showed it to them, and we talked about how the flowers meant we had waited too long to pick it.

I asked if they might want it, and they very excitedly said yes. It took me by surprise because here I was disappointed that I had not been aware to pick it at its prime and yet the kids were so happy, talking about how they would eat it the next day. Simple joys.”

Please make a donation to support Nora’s work in Bolivia. 

Nora Pfeiffer is a returned missioner who served in Cochabamba, Bolivia from 2009 to 2012. She currently works at Franciscans International – Bolivia.